New Orleans A suggestion box or publicity stunt? BP has received thousands of ideas from the public on how to stop a blown oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, but some inventors are complaining that their efforts are getting ignored.
Oil-eating bacteria, bombs and a device that resembles a giant shower curtain are among the 10,000 fixes people have proposed to counter the growing environmental threat. BP is taking a closer look at 700 of the ideas, but the oil company has yet to use any of them nearly a month after the deadly explosion that caused the leak.
“They’re clearly out of ideas, and there’s a whole world of people willing to do this free of charge,” said Dwayne Spradlin, CEO of InnoCentive Inc., which has created an online network of experts to solve problems.
BP spokesman Mark Salt said the company wants the public’s help, but that considering proposed fixes takes time.
“They’re taking bits of ideas from lots of places,” Salt said. “This is not just a PR stunt.”
BP said Wednesday it hopes to begin shooting a mixture known as drilling mud into the blown-out well in the Gulf by Sunday. The “top kill” method involves shooting heavy mud into crippled equipment on top of the well, then aiming cement at the well to permanently keep down the oil. Even if it works it could take several weeks to complete.
“This is all being done at a depth of 5,000 feet and it’s never been done at these depths before,” said Doug Suttles of BP PLC, which leased the rig that exploded April 20 off the coast of Louisiana.
If the top kill effort fails, BP is considering a “junk shot,” which involves shooting knotted rope, pieces of tires and golf balls into the blowout preventer. Crews hope they will lodge into the nooks and crannies of the device to plug it.
About 70 BP workers are taking more suggestions at a tip line center in Houston. The company plans to test one idea from actor Kevin Costner — a centrifuge device to vacuum up the oil — but that was not delivered through the suggestion-box system.
Thousands of barrels of oil are still pouring into open waters each day, and some of it has washed ashore as far east as Alabama. Tar balls found in the Florida Keys were not from the spill, the Coast Guard said Wednesday.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists said a small portion of the oil slick from the blown-out well has reached a powerful current that could take it to Florida. They said diluted oil could appear in isolated locations in Florida if persistent winds push the current toward it, but that oil also could evaporate before reaching the coast.
In Louisiana, a chocolate-brown blanket of oil about as thick as latex paint has invaded reedy freshwater wetlands at the state’s southeastern tip.
Gov. Bobby Jindal and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser led a flotilla of media to inspect the oil encroaching on remote wetlands lining Pass a Loutre, near where the mouth of the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
Jindal, sitting at the edge of an airboat, swept a handheld fishing net through the mess and held it up. It was coated with brown sludge, which had stained the lower shafts of the leafy green reeds sticking up to eight feet out of the water.
“The day that we’ve been fearing is upon us today,” Jindal said later at a news conference.