BP Oil Spill: The Cut, Clean-Up and Criminal Investigation

Despite BP's claims, underwater plumes exposed.

June 1, 2010, 7:56 AM

June 2, 2010— -- An estimated 800,000 gallons of oil a day are now spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, 20 percent faster than before, since the underwater robots began cutting a major pipe. But it could be several more days before BP is able to cap the leak with a containment dome and channel the oil to the surface.

While Admiral Thad Allen said Tuesday he had a "pretty good level of confidence" that the so-called cut and cap technique would work, today they ran into a setback. A saw became stuck during the second cut in an attempt to contain the oil. They are now making a second attempt to cut and should know the outcome later today or early tomorrow, Allen said.

But as BP attempts its seventh try to stop the leaking oil, outrage is mounting in the Gulf Coast and much of it is aimed at BP CEO Tony Hayward.

Louisiana Democrat Rep. Charlie Melancon told "GMA's" George Stephanopoulos that he wants the board of BP to call back Hayward "and give us somebody that really wants to make sure the people of this state, the people of this Gulf Coast region, have what they need, when they want and try and fight this oil [leak]."

"If I performed that, the way this company has performed and of course look at the stocks and what has happened to it because of this incident, usually the buck stops there," Melancon said on "GMA."

But 40 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, ground zero of the oil leak, scientists have discovered three huge swaths of oil particles, some up to 20 miles long and six miles wide, despite BP's claims that plumes do not exist.

These marine scientists onboard the F.G. Walton Smith, a federally funded research vessel, had read a study released in 2001 by the Minerals Management Service and oil companies -- including BP -- that showed they knew how oil and gas would combine at certain depth and stay in the water instead of rising to the surface.

CLICK HERE to read the study.

On Sunday BP's CEO Tony Hayward denied the existence of plumes below the surface.

"The oil is on the surface. It's very difficult for oil to stay in a column," he said. "It wants to go to the surface because of the difference in specific gravity."

The surface of the water may look clean, but once the scientists deploy sensitive instruments 4,900 feet into the Gulf, they are able to detect any subtle changes in the water's chemistry due to the oil. They have discovered oil and gas plumes suspended there and stretching for miles.

Researchers Discover Underwater Plumes

"In some cases we actually saw what…looked like oil droplets on the filters in some of the deepest parts of the plume," Adam Rivers, a researcher with the University of Georgia, said.

But these scientists are still striving to understand how these plumes will affect the Gulf's delicate ecosystem.

"I think one of the things that we're finding out about from this oil spill is that…we don't know enough," Dr. Mandy Joye, who is leading the team, said.

After several weeks of a federal review into whether the oil companies were criminally negligent or if false statements were made, yesterday Attorney General Eric Holder announced a criminal investigation into the oil leak.

Speaking from New Orleans, Holder declined to name specific companies but said the investigation has been ongoing for "some weeks."

"I don't want to describe exactly who is under investigation, at this point the investigation is and has been ongoing for some time but I wouldn't want to specify at this point who the targets or the subjects are," Holder said.

Earlier in the day following a meeting with the two men heading up his commission on the spill, former Sen. Bob Graham of Florida and former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Bill Reilly, President Obama called for justice.

"If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region," Obama said.

Here in Louisiana, local officials want the White House to concentrate on more immediate needs, such as forcing BP to help build miles of barrier islands to protect the coast.

"I want Admiral Allen to do the right thing and step up to the plate and recommend to the president to authorize every dredge in America to be moved to build these barrier islands…before a hurricane takes a blanket of oil and lays it over coastal Louisiana and destroys it forever," Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines parish in Louisiana, said.

When Stephanopoulos questioned Nungesser, saying the president is tripling the number of people heading to the Gulf, Nungesser replied "What are people going to do? Hold hands and keep the oil out?"

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal echoed Nungesser's outrage and said the federal government has been dragging its feet.

"If we'd gotten approval when we asked for this over 21 days ago, we'd have 10 miles built today. With a hundred miles, we'll protect over 4,000 miles of coastline," Jindal said.

"This fight goes on long after the oil spill is capped, long after they take it off the surface of the water…we're going to be dealing with this oil for months and years. For Louisiana this is a marathon," Jindal said.

While the residents along the Gulf Coast realize this challenge will be a marathon, that is what they are afraid of.

"You get hit by a hurricane and you know what you have to do after you're allowed to come back in, you rebuild your own, you rebuild your business, you get back on track, your life is going to move forward again," Bobby Terrebonne, captain of Gotcha Fishing Charters, said. "We don't know where we're going to be at with this, we don't know where we stand, we can't fight it, we have no control over it

Local residents told Stephanopoulos that BP has not given them a lot of information.

"None of us know, we're all on the fence here," local resident Buggy Vegas said.

"I just think the government has to put stricter regulations, BP can't run middle management, middle manage has to run BP. BP can't run the coast guard, the coast guard has got to run BP," Dean Blanchard, a seafood processor, said. "That's where the problem is at, it looks like BP is running everything."

But through the uncertainty these residents still hold onto hope.

"My biggest thrill as a charter boat captain is I get to take people out who have never held a rod or reel in their life or been in a boat and bring them out and they experience it, that's what it's all about," Keith Bergeron said. "Things they've never seen in their life, dolphins coming out of the water, helicopters flying above the platform, the sun rising, it's gorgeous, if you haven't seen it, you're missing a lot."

ABC News' Zunaira Zak contributed to this report.

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