When will spill be cleaned up? Maybe never

After more than three months, BP appears finally to have gotten a firm grasp on its runaway Deepwater Horizon well. Now the big question in the Gulf of Mexico is how, and if, an environmental mess of unprecedented scope can be cleaned up.

Only last week did federal spill managers begin discussing with state and parish leaders in Louisiana, the hardest hit state, how to set the standards for declaring the nation's largest offshore oil spill officially mopped up.

"How do we get to the inevitable question of how clean is clean?" said retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the Obama administration's point man on the spill.

Many scientists and environmentalists believe there won't be a quick or easy answer.

"We've never dealt with this before, the complication of this much oil coming from the deep sea and being hit heavily with chemical dispersants," said Ron Kendall, director of the Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University. "We have conducted the largest environmental toxicology experiment in the history of this country in the Gulf of Mexico."


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