Worry that Gulf oil spreading into major current

NEW ORLEANS – Engineers finally figured out how to siphon some of the oil that has been spewing into the Gulf for almost a month, but it could be too late to stop the ooze from reaching a major ocean current that could carry it through the Florida Keys and up the East Coast.

After weeks of failed solutions, BP PLC crews on Sunday hooked up a mile-long tube to funnel the crude from a blown well into a tanker ship. However, millions of gallons of crude are already in the Gulf of Mexico.

A researcher told The Associated Press that computer models show the oil may have already seeped into a powerful water stream known as the loop current, which could propel it into the Atlantic Ocean. A boat is being sent later this week to collect samples and learn more.

“This can’t be passed off as ‘it’s not going to be a problem,'” said William Hogarth, dean of the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science. “This is a very sensitive area. We are concerned with what happens in the Florida Keys.”

BP PLC engineers remotely guiding robot submersibles had worked since Friday to place the tube into a 21-inch pipe nearly a mile below the sea. After several setbacks, it was working, though officials warned that it was too early to measure how much crude was being collected and acknowledged it was no panacea.

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