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Top Kill Method Fails; Oil's Health Impact on Workers

Aired May 29, 2010 - 20:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: A major setback in the Gulf of Mexico today. BP coming forward, we heard from BP's COO Doug Suttles saying the top kill method he was trying to use to stop all that gushing oil, it has failed.

Now, crews going yet again to another back up plan.


DOUG SUTTLES, BP CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: After three full days of attempting top kill, we have been unable to overcome the flow from the well so we now believe it's time to move on to the next of our options, which is the LMRP, lower marine riser package cap.

Over the last three days we've pumped a total of over 30,000 barrels of mud. We've made numerous attempts to over come the flow. We've monitored the situation after each attempt. We've also used our junk shot technique and other materials to try to divert more of the flow down the well, but we have not been able to stop the flow, and after significant review with a - with what can only probably be called a brain trust of engineers and scientists from BP, the industry, the Minerals Management Service, the Department of Energy, the Department of Interior, and further reviews by Secretary Salazar and Secretary Chu, we have made the decision to move on to the next option.

We continue work on our relief wells. The DD3 rig drilling the first relief well is now just over12,000 feet, as measured from just above the surface of the sea. It's about to run its next string of casing, and this job is going well. It's ahead of plan.

REAR ADMIRAL MARY LANDRY, U.S. COAST GUARD: Obviously we're very disappointed in today's announcement and I - I know all of you are anxious to see this well secured. It's been our number one goal since day one.

But we also want to assure you that we've had a very, very aggressive response posture and we're - we're going to continue do that. We have positioned resources all around the Gulf Coast. We're obviously right on the frontlines in Louisiana, fighting as the oil reaches the shore.

But it is a tribute to everybody who's been working on this since day one that we only have 107 miles of shoreline oil right now and we have approximately 30 acres of marsh.

There's no silver - silver bullet to stop this leak. You can all tell from what you've listened to day after day that there are tremendous brainpower and there are tremendous people, hard-working people that are behind the scenes trying to figure this - find a solution and actually secure the well.

But we also want to manage your expectations that it is so dynamic and so complex.


BALDWIN: Well given the news that top kill did not work and they're moving onto Plan B, I want to let you know we have our best troops on the ground for you tonight. Team coverage, including David Mattingly who was sitting in that room when that news conference was happening in Robert, Louisiana. We will check in with him.

Also, Carol Costello in Port Fourchon, Louisiana; meteorologist Jacqui Jeras joining me in our Weather Center to really illustrate exactly what this next step is. And Louisiana Congressman Charlie Melancon.

I want to begin with David Mattingly who was, as I said, in that news conference where BP announced it was scrapping the top kill idea. So, David, before we move on as BP is moving on to the next - to this next backup plan, if you will, I want you to reiterate how significant this failure is.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is significant because BP was with the top kill. They were attempting to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and while they were pumping that mud, that heavy liquid into the well, they were able to stop that flow.

But because the top kill didn't work here, they weren't able to stop - to fight off that oil permanently, and what they've been able to do now is say that we are going to have to go onto something else. So not only did they reach a dead end with the top kill, they are now going to have to go to a containment plan that is actually going to allow for more oil to leak into the Gulf of Mexico.

So they had a plan that they were pursuing to stop the oil. They found out they couldn't stop the oil. And now, they're going to find a way to contain the oil using a modified containment dome that they're going to install in the next couple of days.

But again, that's a containment strategy. They're not going to be stopping all of the oil, so the oil is going to be going back into the Gulf of Mexico.

They say they expect to capture most of it, but, if you remember, just a couple of days ago, we were hearing from independent experts who put their minds together to come up with how much oil's actually leaking into the gulf, and they came up with a figure of anywhere from 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day. So if you stop a majority of that, if you stopped most of that, you're still looking at possibility thousands of barrels of oil that are going to be leaking into the Gulf of Mexico from this containment plan that they have.

But that's what BP is pursuing next. They said the top kill was their best chance. This is going to be their backup plan. They have all of the pieces in play, and now it's just going to take them a few days to assemble it and try and get that working.

BALDWIN: Now that we know their best chance being the top kill hasn't worked, you remember, you and I both covered the containment dome, when they tried placing the containment dome initially over that leak. That didn't work because of the crystals that had formed. And so my question to you is what makes them think this similar idea, this custom-fit cap, this LMRP, will work any different than the containment dome?

MATTINGLY: Well, because of that failure in the beginning. They've learned from that. They weren't expecting those crystals, those hydrates, they call them, from forming inside the dome down at that depth. But, once that happened, they set that big dome aside, cast it aside as a failure, learned from it and moved on.

They've now reengineered this idea. They're going to be pumping chemicals in there. They're going to be pumping warm water in there, all to keep these crystals from forming.

So they believe they can overcome that problem, and they've - I wouldn't say that they're expressing confidence, but they're expressing that this is the plan that they have next. This is what they have ready to go. The pieces are in play and they're going to start assembling it and have it operational, perhaps in four days or more.

BALDWIN: Yes. They said four to six days.

David Mattingly, we'll be watching right along with you. Amazing reporting from you there for - for about a month now. David, thank you.

I want to move on to Carol Costello. She's been following the spillover response for us as well, but she's also been with the crews who are out there in this 90 degree heat, trying to clean up the oily mess that's been washing along the coastline.

And, Carol, I know you have seen some those crews that are working right now, in fact, or they have been working this evening to try to keep some of that oil from washing ashore.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they had to stop for a little while because the weather has not been so good today, Brooke. There was a driving rainstorm, thunder and lightning, so they had to stop their work.

You know, we've been calling around to people too, everybody we've been talking to the past couple of weeks, actually the past month since this thing first started, we just got off of the phone with Steve Theriot, who is the president of Jefferson Parish, and that's the parish I'm in right now near Grand Isle, Louisiana. He said he found out that the top kill did not work when the Coast Guard called him and, you know, his stomach just dropped. He's just so disappointed. But that's not to say that he is completely discouraged, because the State of Louisiana has this plan. They're working on this plan to bring in local engineers to build these huge berms. And what a berm is, they want to build these six-foot-high ridges of sand to protect the estuaries.

They got a partial OK from the Coast Guard. They just need a final OK. Governor Jindal and - and other - and the other mayor -- Governor Jindal and the mayors from around this area talked with President Obama when he was in town about this. So the plan seems to have the go-ahead, and there - they're raring to go.

Let me just put it this way. They have the plan almost in place. They have the manpower already. They're just waiting. Because, you know, I'll tell you what, I don't know that anyone had much faith in this top kill operation because so many other plans have failed. So it wasn't like people were standing by, holding their breath, waiting for this thing to work because it wasn't like that at all.

And, you know, you heard Doug Suttles during that presser a couple of hours ago, saying the top kill didn't work. And then, as he talked on, he had to - he had this quote where he says, you know, this gushing oil and the fact they can't stop it scares everyone, which is not exactly the most affirming thing to say, you know, in the State of Louisiana.

BALDWIN: Yes. Not something that a lot of people didn't (sic) want to hear. And Carol, just briefly, I know that in talking about all the work that's going on there and these barrier plans and keeping, you know, their precious marshes clean, you said some of these guys are working - I mean they're out there 24/7, are they not?

COSTELLO: The Louisiana National Guard working 24/7. In fact, I talked to them yesterday. I talked to them a little bit out here too. They're - they're taking sand - there's a huge pile of sand that away, and we can't show it to you because we're under this pavilion. But they're taking the sand to the - to the wetlands to protect the marshes. They're building like these sand barriers.

And also the Louisiana National Guard on the beach in Grand Isle, Louisiana, laying seven miles of this inflatable pipe. They're siphoning water from the gulf, filling these pipes to - to create this barrier. Just in case any of that oily stuff comes this way, that barrier will keep that oily water from washing onshore and affecting the sand behind the barrier.

They're out there all night tonight. Their goal is to get that seven miles of inflatable pipe laid in seven days, so they're doing a mile per day.

BALDWIN: Unbelievable.

COSTELLO: I think they have five days to go.

BALDWIN: We're looking at the - we're looking at the pictures, perhaps, just as you said, there's a little bit of a glimmer that they're getting something accomplished out there.

Carol Costello, we thank you for standing by these last few hours. Let me move onto someone else who's been good enough to stand by with us. Carol, thank you.

Louisiana Congressman Charlie Melancon, very passion about his state, Louisiana, his residents, his constituents. He rejoins us live, as does Retired Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore.


BALDWIN: We have been joined by so many different voices here, reacting to the news that we heard about an hour and a half, two hours ago now from BP COO Doug Suttles, that this top kill that everyone was hoping and praying would work, would stop that leak, has failed.

I want to talk now with Retired Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore. He's been talking to us through the week. I know, sir, you've been following this - this top kill process closely, and, as a Louisianan, you know, this has to hurt.

VOICE OF RET. LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean everybody I've talked to was pretty - I was down in (INAUDIBLE) last night, talking to a lot of the local fishermen and people who worked along the coast whose lives depend on this industry, and everybody was praying that this would work, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Now as we pray that this next - this LMRP works, let me ask you, I understand you say that this gulf oil disaster needs to be made - needs to be designated as a national disaster. Why will that help?

HONORE: Well, what we want - what that would do is empower the governor to work through the staff of that so that he could get all of the materials he needs without going through and having any approval from BP. We need the government to give - the federal government to give Governor Jindal and the parish presidents what they need as opposed to going through this bureaucratic process and going to BP and saying, mother, may I?

BP need to put - stop the oil. We need to get what we need to this governor.

BALDWIN: So instead of saying, mother may I, we need to be able give that power, you're saying, to Governor Bobby Jindal and others who - who know the area, know the - know the issues along the gulf.

Let me ask you, then, do you trust BP and should the government trust BP?

HONORE: I think BP has to build not from words but deeds and show that they can cut their oil off, and we need to put the government in charge of fighting the oil along the coastline and let BP focus on cutting the oil off. I think the government also, making this a national disaster, need to focus on taking care of the people.

I don't see - BP's in the oil business and they can't cut that oil off, how they're going to give the benefits and the entitlements and taking care of the people, or the trade space that they have no experience in, you know?

BALDWIN: Sir, what about this offshore drilling, and now that we have a ban on it, and some people are coming forward from Louisiana, from the Arctic, and saying this is not the right move, that this will mean that we will have to be further dependent on foreign oil. What's your perspective?

HONORE: I think everybody's got to do their job, and if we reduce the risk of the deep drilling and make sure that everybody's doing their job and the (INAUDIBLE) system is there - but I think that the six- month moratorium is about right, but I don't see, based on what I know about technology and anything else, that we'll be able to wean ourselves off this oil.

We've got to figure out how to safely do it and do it day in and day out and everybody's doing their job and those that don't do they could be held accountable with punitive measures.

BALDWIN: Lieutenant General Russel - Russel Honore, we thank you for - for calling in. And, I tell you between the e-mails and the tweets I'm getting, I tell you, the nation - the nation is thinking about you all down in - along the gulf. Thank you.

We have seen what the oil spill has done to the water, but what about the workers who are out in the thick of things? What about the dangers it might pose to their health?

We tackle that next.


BALDWIN: Let's talk now about the health effects from this gulf oil spill. Today we're hearing two more people cleaning up the oil got sick enough they had to go to the hospital. That is according to some shrimpers on the scene helping with the recovery efforts.


CLINT GUIDRY, LOUISIANA SHRIMP ASSOCIATION: This is unbelievable. In my experience - I'm a Vietnam veteran. It reminds me very much of being sprayed with Agent Orange. This is - this just got to stop.


BALDWIN: Now, BP says it has definitely given proper protective gear to its workers and it also says it is continuously checking the air to make sure it is not harmful. Still, some scientists are saying BP is not releasing its air quality test results, and that makes it tough to confirm that BP is keeping people out of the dangerous areas, these harmful areas.

I want to bring in Dr. Gina Solomon. She's one of those scientists and she went to Louisiana to check on the health of these workers and returned just a couple of weeks ago. And Dr. Solomon is with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

All right, Doctor, have you - I just have to ask. You tried to get those quality - air quality readings from BP. Are they handing them over?

DR. GINA SOLOMON, NATURAL RESOURCE DEFENSE COUNCIL: BP has claimed that they're doing their testing, but I have not seen any data from them. So it's really hard for me to be convinced, especially when I'm hearing from the workers that they're getting sick and seeing guys going to the hospital.

It's hard for me to be convinced that they're really safe out there, and that worries me.

BALDWIN: All right, Dr. Solomon, let me - let me ask you about those workers. So you were in the gulf a couple of weeks ago. I mean, what did workers tell you they were feeling? Talk - talk specific symptoms.

SOLOMON: The kinds of symptoms that we've been hearing from workers include headache, shortness of breath, cough, chest pain in some cases, lightheadedness and dizziness. Also, some guys are complaining of nausea and vomiting.

These are all, in some ways, nonspecific but it's interesting that they also are linked to the kinds of symptoms you'd get from inhaling oil vapors.

BALDWIN: That was what I wanted to jump to. I mean, I know we can't conclusively connect that because they're feeling these symptoms that it's definitely, you know, related to this oil spill, but that is what workers with oil go through sometimes, correct?

SOLOMON: When the oil is still bubbling up fresh like it is, unfortunately, in this situation, it is continuing to release vapors into the air. And, in fact, there are estimates that about 40 percent of the oil that's coming up is evaporating into the air.

That might be good for the ocean, relatively, but it's not good for people who have to breathe the air right near where the oil slick is. And they could be inhaling harmful chemicals ranging from benzene to toluene, to gases like hydrogen sulfide, and I'd really like to know that those guys are safe and they're - because they're out there without any respiratory protection.

BALDWIN: Now, again, BP says they're giving them protective gear. I just want to be fair and throw that out there. And I know you're talking specifically about the workers who are literally coming into contact with this bad stuff.

But what about, Dr. Solomon, what about the people who live in the area? I mean, how could their health be affected? Could you get sick just from smelling it?

SOLOMON: There are a lot of people along the shoreline who are complaining of the strong odor of oil. And, in fact, when I was down there I noticed it too. It comes and goes.

People are complaining of various health symptoms along the coastline.

The good news there is that EPA has been monitoring the air quite aggressively. They've set up a network of air monitors and they have mobile units, and the results from the air monitoring, so far, give some cause for hope. The levels have been relatively low, a few short-term spikes, but, for the most part, good news for the local residents and the - the mystery, though, continues because the local residents are smelling smells, and we're pushing EPA to look for even more chemicals in the air than they've been testing for so far.

BALDWIN: Dr. Solomon, if you get any of those air quality test results from BP, will you share them with CNN?

SOLOMON: I gladly will. I'm - I'm very eager to see the results.

BALDWIN: Excellent. Dr. Solomon, thank you.

As promised we had the good Congressman Charlie Melancon still sitting - standing by for us. I want to talk a little bit more about his perspective of this thing and how we move forward.

There he is. We'll talk to him just on the other side of the break.


ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Ali Velshi.

We're continuing our live coverage of the news from BP, announcing that their top kill method, the attempt to kill that leak in the Gulf of Mexico, has failed.

We're going to bring you up to speed on this. We've got our entire team covering this story this evening.

Let's go straight to David Mattingly. He was at the press conference where BP announced it was scrapping the top kill idea in Robert, Louisiana. David, bring us up to speed.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ali with each passing day with no success, the questions kept getting harder. What is going on with the top kill? And today we find out, BP comes right out and says, the top kill has failed. We're going to have to move onto something else.

But one thing they couldn't answer was why it failed. They just know that it didn't. they were able to pump, they say, 30,000 barrels of mud into that well, and hopefully trying to push that oil down so they could seal it off with cement. It didn't work.

And we got a note from the CEO of BP, Tony Hayward. He says they also tried 16 different times to inject solid material into that liquid to help make that pressure game work, that they were trying to essentially drown this well under high pressure. But 16 times, that didn't work. And now, in this note that he sent out, he wanted to make it clear that the decision to move on wasn't BP's alone. He said the scientific brains trust - brain trust assembled here studied the data right through the process together with our counterparts in government. We made the decision that the best way to minimize the flow of oil into the gulf is to set aside the top kill and move immediately to place a containment cap over the leak.

So the most significant thing here is this was BP's best shot to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico until they could finish that second well that they're drilling. It's going to be ready in August.

Now, instead of stopping the oil, we're not only hit a dead end with the top kill but we're actually taking a step back when it comes to oil getting into the gulf. During that top kill procedure, they were actually able to stop the oil. As they were pumping that mud down there, the oil wasn't coming out.

Now the oil's going to be coming out again and they're going to be putting a dome over the top of this system that they have down there to catch that oil again, but they're saying they're not going to be able to catch all of it, so we're going to have more oil, not known how much exactly, is going to be escaping into the Gulf of Mexico and contributing to the spill that we already have - Ali.

VELSHI: David, we've - we've all been on this for a while so we've got a - a fairly intricate view of what's going on. For our viewers who didn't really realize what was at stake with respect to top kill - I mean, they've been hearing about this for 40 days, so hard to weigh what was more important than what was less important.

This was, even though they said it would have a 60 or 70 percent chance of success, this was the best chance of success so far and the next to best chance of success is drilling these relief wells to relieve the pressure that's pushing this oil out, and they confirmed again today, August is the target date for having that done.

MATTINGLY: Right, August. They were going to drill a relief well. And the president made clear the other day that he said that they -- the government stepped in and said, No, you're going to drill two wells, just in case one of them doesn't work. But the first one, they say, is going ahead of schedule, but it's not going to be done until -- until August. That's the plan where they're going to drill down, drill in way deep below into the well that -- that's been leaking and then fill it up with cement. That's permanent solution to. This that's the worst-case scenario is having to wait until August as this oil continues to leak into the Gulf of Mexico.

So this top kill was just a temporary plan from the very beginning, but it was a plan to stop the oil from flowing into the gulf. Now they're scrapping it. They're setting it aside, and going back to another containment plan, like we've seen in the past.

Now, there's something that they said -- they learned from their mistakes in the past, Ali. I know you remember when they started off weeks ago with that large containment dome that they were going to try and capture about 85 percent of the oil. That thing was huge, about four stories tall, weighed tons -- many, many tons. And they encountered this problem with crystals, and they hadn't expected that. But they say they learned from that failure, and now they're reengineering a different type of dome to go on top of the blowout preventer they have down there so they can catch most of the oil.

Now, when we've been looking at that video constantly of that material escaping through that bend in the pipe -- we're probably rolling it right now, right?

VELSHI: Yes, we've got it on now.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Well, now, the last couple of days we've been watching that, there have been wild clouds of stuff coming out. That's been the mud. Well, now that they stopped pumping the mud, we're going to start seeing oil coming out of there again. And the thing they're going to going to do -- they're going to be sheering that pipe off. They're just going to be cutting it off, creating a nice smooth surface where they're going to put this dome on top of that with some kind of loose seal. They say they hope to capture most of the oil. They're not going to be able, they believe, to capture all of it. So we're going to be seeing oil going into the water again.

And at the same time, the Coast Guard says, Ali -- and this is also going to be disturbing to a lot of people, they're going to resume the spray, spraying the subsea dispersant down there at the source. That's something that they were able to discontinue while the top kill was in motion, but now that they've put that aside, now that they've got oil leaking out again, it's going to be putting dispersants again down there at sea floor.

VELSHI: All right, David, stay there. We've got a lot to discuss because there's really a lot at stake here. This was supposed to end. We were all hoping it would. And now we've found out it is not ending, certainly not tonight, certainly not this weekend. The next thing that could happen might be as early as four days from now, might be a week from now, but even that has no certainty. David Mattingly is staying with us from Robert, Louisiana.

Let's go to Chicago. CNN's Dan Lothian is in Chicago, where the president is. David -- David heard from the president of BP. Dan, you've heard from the president of the United States about this.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And certainly, you know, the White House had been hoping that this would be successful. Of course, it has failed, and the president now putting out a statement a short time ago. And bear with me now. I want to read through about three paragraphs here, the president saying, quote, "Today I've spoken with national incident commander Admiral Thad Allen, as well as Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Epa Administrator Lisa Jackson, and senior White House advisers John Brennan and Carol Browner regarding the ongoing efforts to stop the BP oil spill. From the beginning, our concern has been that the surest way to stop the flow of oil, the drilling of relief wells, would take several months to complete. So engineers and experts have explored a variety of alternatives to stop the leak now. They had hoped that the top kill approach attempted this week would halt the flow of oil and gas currently escaping from the sea floor. But while we initially received optimistic reports about the procedure, it is now clear that it has not worked. Rear Admiral Mary Landry today directed BP to launch a new procedure, whereby the riser pipe" -- and we've been talking about this -- "will be cut and a containment structure fitted over the leak."

The president goes on to say, "This approach is not without risk. It has never attempted before at this depth. That is why it was not activated until other methods had been exhausted. It will be difficult and will take several days. It is also important to note that while we were hopeful that the top kill would succeed, we were also mindful that there was a significant chance it would not and we will continue to pursue any and all responsible means of stopping this leak until the completion of the two relief wells currently being drilled."

And finally, the president concluding, saying, "As I said yesterday, every day that this leak continues is an assault on the people of the Gulf Coast region, their livelihoods and the natural bounty that belongs to all of us. It is as enraging as it is heartbreaking, and we will not relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and shores are cleaned up and until the people unjustly victimized by this manmade disaster are made whole."

And one other thing we learned today is that Secretary Salazar, as well as the EPA administrator and the NOAA administrator, will be headed back to the gulf next week, another attempt by this administration to make sure that what happens next perhaps will be successful -- Ali.

VELSHI: All right, you'll -- you'll keep us, Dan, up to date with what's going on with that because it may be that those schedules get moved up, given the seriousness of this whole situation.

This is a developing story. Everybody's being informed of it now. But a great deal of heartbreak across the nation. Dan Lothian's in Chicago, where the president is. David Mattingly is on the coast at Robert, Louisiana. We've got our whole team coverage here.

When we come back, we're going to talk to Congressman Charlie Melancon of Louisiana's third congressional district. This is places like Homa. This is places like Chalmette and Gonzalez. The third district is south of New Orleans. It's the area that is most scared about this oil slick coming in and ruining their entire economy and the health of their people. Congressman Melancon is standing by. We'll go to him right after this.


VELSHI: OK, let me bring you up to speed with what's going on. The top kill effort -- this is the effort by BP to cap off that well that continues to leak into the Gulf of Mexico -- has failed. And that caps off a tough week for the congressman who represents the Louisiana coast. Representative Charlie Melancon couldn't finish his statement before a committee on Thursday, he was so emotional about the whole thing. Now he's got to face his constituents with news that this oil is going to continue to ruin their waters and their beaches. The congressman joins us now.

Thanks for being here, Congressman. Very disappointing news today. When did you get the news, and how did you feel?

REP. CHARLIE MELANCON (D), LOUISIANA: Well, got it, I guess it was around 2:00 o'clock, if I remember correctly. And of course, knocked us down a little bit and upset us, to an extent. But the people of south Louisiana are resilient. We'll dust off, and we'll figure out where we need to go. We're going to continue to fight to save our marshes and our coastal areas and -- which is part of what I did today, being out in the marshes, being down in Plaquemines parish, trying to assess where we are, what we can do and what are the concerns and how I can help.

VELSHI: Well, what can you do at this point? I mean, other than stopping this oil from leaking, what can go into place that is going to try and help your parish, help your district?

MELANCON: Well, what -- what is happening right now is the fishermen who are out there worrying about the areas from which -- where they live, where they make their livings, where they're -- that we all love so much -- they're out there work their hearts out to try to make sure that the booms are up, that they're in a position that helps. They police them 24 hours a day. This is about saving not only a place that they love but a place where they make their living, tradition -- you name it, it's there. So that's what we can do.

Now, some of what we've done, we've got approval today that the federal government's going to send in a health clinic with the sick people that are coming. As I told people, we've got lots of place to clean the pelicans and we need to keep doing that, but we need to make sure that when these workers come in that are feeling ill or if they've got broken bones or injuries in whatever way shape or form, that they get treatment as quickly as possible because the closest hospitals are in the New Orleans area, and that's about an hour-and-a- half drive from Venice, Louisiana.

So doing that. And we've met with the fishermen and throughout the district at several town hall meetings over the last several weeks, trying to give them guidance, trying to give them a place where they can connect, get counseling to help them, trying to make sure that even though they're in limbo, if you would, between the date of the fire, the disaster and the sinking, and whatever date it's going to be that this thing is resolved and how it's resolved, so that they'll know what they can or can't do with their life going forward. We need to try and help them get through that period of time.

VELSHI: What's the sense that you have of those people in your district who work off of the sea, those people who fish for oysters, for shrimp, about how long this damage is going to keep them from their livelihood?

MELANCON: Well, that's -- that's the frustration because nobody can put a date on it. The only person who knows is the one that's upstairs that we usually go to on our sabbath day and pray. But what they're doing is, they're not sitting still. There's no -- no grass growing under their feet. They're out there working in these marshes, trying to make sure that they protect that which is most valuable to them.

It's the coastline and the coastal marshes, the estuaries of south Louisiana, as I've described them, America's wetlands. We produce 35 percent of the seafood consumed in this country. We have an economy in this coastal area that puts us, if you would rate us, as the 29th economy in the world. That's pretty strong. And most people don't look at south Louisiana in those terms, but we're a viable, integral part of this country, and it's a shame that we have to -- that the rest of the country needs to find out about that through such a mishap.

VELSHI: You were very upset earlier in the week. We share your fears. I spent a lot of time in your parish. Give us a sense for our viewers about the type of people who work in these industries, in the seafood industry. These are, in many cases, people who sustain themselves just by what they catch and what they sell on a weekly basis.

MELANCON: This time of year is when we start the shrimping season. This time of year is when the sports fishing guides' business really picks up. This time of year is -- and realize, south Louisiana is in the top five destination places for fishermen around the world. This is a place that people from -- throughout the world that love to fish come, whether it's offshore, whether it's in the coastal marshes. This is one of the places they come to.

The shrimping industry -- this is one the greatest places -- we've been hurt by a lot of the trades and dumping -- trade aspects of dumping of seafood, particularly shrimp, on us. But I passed through Lafitte this morning. The shrimp docks are shut down, places that used to get a million pounds of shrimp at least on a daily basis. No boat's even parked out there, much less unloading.

The people that have the boats are trying to put them to work, trying to make ends meet, worried about what the future holds for them. And that's, I guess, the biggest frustration. We are post-Katrina, and because of the aspect of what transpired in this region of the state, this region of the country, a lot of people have had post-traumatic stress disorder, if you would, were starting to see the light at end of the tunnel, feeling that this was going to be a good year.

VELSHI: And then this happens.

MELANCON: (INAUDIBLE) gave them an opportunity to step back up, and then boom.


MELANCON: It's like a belly punch, a stomach punch.

VELSHI: Congressman, our thoughts are with you. Congressman Charlie Melancon in Louisiana, thank you so much for joining us. We'll stay in touch with you on this.

I was just telling the congressman that I've spent some time in his parish. One of the times I did that was during Hurricane Katrina, on an oil rig, and then seeing the damage after that. The guy who was with me was's executive producer, Caleb Silver. When we come back after this break, he's going to tell us how the of this cleanup and this disaster just got a little higher because of what happened today.

Stay with us. Our live coverage continues.


VELSHI: OK, let's have a look at how much this is costing. This is costing a whole lot of people a whole lot of money every day this oil continues to flow into the Gulf of Mexico. The failure of the top kill method to try and contain that oil leak is just the latest setback for BP's containment efforts, and the costs are starting to add up for that company.

CNNMoney has been following that part of the story. Executive producer Caleb Silver joins us now on the phone from New York. Caleb, you and I have -- oh, you're on Skype. All right. Excellent. Good to see you. Caleb, let's get a sense of how much this has cost BP so far and how much more it's likely to cost, especially in light of what we just heard today, Caleb, that their efforts to contain this leak have not worked.

CALEB SILVER, CNN MONEY EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Right. Well, BP finally gave us some figures yesterday in a press release. The company said so far, it's cost them about $930 million. We know state agencies in that gulf area have asked for $300 million in aid to make up for lost tourism, lost revenue. So BP finally put the $930 million figure out there, and that includes everything from containment, damages and some settlement claims.

We know that BP's told us 26,000 claims have been filed so far, 11,650 have been paid. There's going to be a lot more litigation, a lot more costs and a lot more unknown costs. There's been estimates by analysts that this could cost anywhere from $4 billion to $10 billion, but those are early estimates. We really don't how long it's going to go on and how much it's going to cost BP. And frankly, they don't, either.

VELSHI: You know, we keep hearing, particularly the politicians who've been down in the gulf saying BP is going to pay every last claim, every last penny. If anybody didn't earn the money that they earned last year, BP will pay it. Are we certain of that?

SILVER: Well, BP has a 65 percent stake in this particular well. It does have some partners. Those partners include Anadarko. Those partners include Japan's Mitsui unit. BP has said, and we've had Tony Hayward on CNN saying that BP's going to be responsible and pay every last dime. But we actually don't know until all the litigation goes through and the damage assessment has been made. We don't know who is actually liable for the explosion and all the cleanup efforts. So the litigation is going to be a long road. There are going to be a lot of numbers tossed around for a long period of time.

What we do know, and you know from being down in the Gulf of Mexico and talking to guests as we've been covering this story, is that oil is a huge part of the revenue picture down in the Gulf of Mexico. The four biggest industries -- oil, tourism, fishing and -- and oil exploration. We know that those are big industries, and oil accounts for half of the revenue down there. Now that we know there'll be no new drilling permits, that could cost 30,000 jobs or 30,000 people who need to get to work. So it's a human cost. It's a jobs cost. And it's a big cost for BP and its shareholders so far as well, Ali.

VELSHI: Twenty-eight percent down since this thing began, BP's stock. Caleb, thanks for joining us. We'll check in with you a little later, CNNMoney executive Caleb Silver, who spent some time down in the gulf with me covering oil stories there.

We've seen the damage that the oil can do to the ocean and the environment. It makes you think about what it could do to your health. When we come back, we'll talk about that.


VELSHI: All right, we're continuing our coverage of what is going on in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, we heard from BP a few hours ago that their efforts to contain the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have failed. These efforts specifically referring to the top kill method, the idea of pumping that mud that they've been pumping in for three days, trying to counter the pressure of the oil, and then cementing that hole -- that has failed. They're moving onto the next thing. The next thing is called M -- sorry -- LMRP. LMRP. It stands for lower marine riser package.

Jacqui Jeras been following this for us all afternoon. She's going to tell us a little bit about this LMRP. The closest thing we can get to right now is that it's a little like that top hat that they were talking about a few weeks ago.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Right, not all that different. And one of the big things that you need to know about the differences here is no longer are we trying to stop it with this most recent procedure. This is just going to put a little Band-Aid over it and help to reduce the flow. And BP officials say they think that this will help collect most of the oil.

So we've put together an animation here to help you understand how all of this works. And sitting on the ocean floor on top of that well is the BOP, or the blowout preventer, and that's what you're looking at here. This is a very, very tall -- like, five stories high. And on the top of it -- as we put this into motion for you -- you will see there's the riser. And the riser basically is basically that pipe, which is broken at this time, and is the primary location -- oops -- the primary location of that leak.

Now what they're going to do with these ROVs, or the remotely operated vehicles, they're going to come in here and they're going to cut this off, a clean slice off the top. There you can see. When they do that, the oil will be free flowing. Now, BP officials tell us they're not that worried about it, which kind of tells me that it's basically leaking as much as it possibly can at this point.

So when they make that cut, they're going to come in with this little cap or kind of like the top hat over the top of it. And on the top of that, they're going to put in another riser. And that riser will lead up to a ship on the surface of the ocean to help collect that oil. So this will not be a seal, this will just be a cover. And they think it should collect most of that oil which is coming out at this time.

They say this is kind of a complicated process. It's going to take a number of days. They're estimating maybe four to seven days that it will take for this to happen. But the bottom line is, is that, really, at this point, the only thing we've got going on to stop this altogether is drilling the relief wells. And they've already been working on this for about a month now, drilling two wells that are going to come down at an angle to the main well. And then they're going to put the concrete in here, and that should help relieve the pressure and then it's eventually going to stop it up. So we're talking August before this thing is over and done with -- Ali.

VELSHI: Remarkable because we keep talking about 5,000 feet, but that's just to the surface of the sea.

JERAS: Right.

VELSHI: There's another 13,000, 14,000, 15,000 feet underneath that. But I think you said something right in the beginning that the important thing to remember here -- we're not -- this new effort is not an effort to stop that oil from coming out.


VELSHI: It's just to try and contain it and pull it up, suck it up to a ship, to a rig on the surface of the ocean.

JERAS: Right. And they're already doing some siphoning at this time off of the other end of the riser, and that's really not collecting all that much. And from what we're hearing from BOP (SIC) the only other option -- we've been throwing this out there, too, for a little while -- is talking about putting a BOP on top of another BOP.

VELSHI: BOP, blowout preventer. Yes.

JERAS: Exactly. So they're not saying altogether that that option is out of there altogether, but they're saying this is their next best hope at this point. And at this time -- and of course, this could change because, you know, they're grasping at straws here...

VELSHI: Because it's changing all the time, yes.

JERAS: ... they'll try anything. But at this time, they've got nothing but the relief wells that will stop it. It's just helping the situation. I think General Honore, who was on our air earlier, had a really good point, that at this time, we really need to start focusing on protecting the coast... VELSHI: Yes. That's right.

JERAS: ... because it doesn't appear that anything's going to stop this problem between now and August.

VELSHI: Jacqui Jeras, thank you.