Special Reports

8 tons of oil spill waste cleared from Florida Panhandle beach

Cleanup workers in the Pensacola area were kept busy overnight Wednesday, clearing eight tons of oil spill waste off a Perdido Key barrier island and monitoring a trail of gunk along another coast.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's office reported the existence of a three-mile-long trail of so-called mousse, an oily slick, between the Pensacola Beach pier and Fort Pickens National Park.

It was the 65th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. In Washington, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen reported at a midday briefing that BP had captured nearly 28,000 barrels of oil at the spill site on Tuesday.

It was a record high in the collection of leaking oil, into two drill ships deployed to replace the blown out rig.

Unfortunately, he said, a cap over the gushing well that had been collecting oil was disconnected after workers worried they had detected a dangerous buildup of pressure in a line feeding one of the drill ships, the Discover Enterprise. Allen was unable to say for how long the cap would remain disconnected or how much oil again flowed unrestrained into the Gulf of Mexico.

In Escambia County, the fallout of the spill became more and more evident.

``There were over eight tons of product cleaned off Johnson Beach off Perdido Key last night,'' reported Kelly Cooke, a county public information officer. ``It's getting busier.''

In addition, the county spotted several solid masses of 8-by-10-foot weathered oil waste in the Pensacola Pass. It was contained, Cooke said, and a skimmer was on site.

Even as coastal protection measures have edged ever eastward as far as oyster-rich Apalachicola, the Panhandle's western-most county, Escambia, which abuts Mississippi, remains the Sunshine State's ground zero.

Crist was expected to tour a beach there Wednesday.

Also Wednesday:

• BP announced it had set up a new entity to be led by a native of Mississippi, Bob Dudley. It is called the Coastal Restoration Organization, with Dudley as president and chief executive officer. His mandate is to lead ``the company's long-term response to the Deepwater Horizon incident and the MC252 oil and gas spill,'' a news release said.

• Allen said two workers associated with the cleanup had died overnight -- one in a swimming accident; the other was an operator of a so-called ``vessel of opportunity,'' the term for a private ship hired by BP for the cleanup effort.

• A Maryland Democrat, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, called on President Barack Obama on Wednesday to hold a summit with East Coast governors and local officials to plan for the oil spill impact on the Atlantic coastline, should the waste enter the Gulf's loop current, go around the tip of Florida and up the coast.

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