Permanent fix by the weekend
Crews are inching closer to the final step in permanently killing the fractured Deepwater Horizon oil well.
Almost a mile beneath the surface of the gulf drilling teams are now as close as they have ever been to intercepting the fractured well.
National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen told reporters Wednesday that the drill could intercept the fractured well within the next 24 hours.
At that point scientists will analyze data and likely begin the "bottom kill" procedure by pumping in thick drilling mud and more than 5,000 gallons of cement to permanently seal the well.
"Four days from now it could all be done," Admiral Allen said.
Still, almost five months into the disaster there is concern it will take much longer to fully assess the damage and to try and clean it up.
Independent scientists now say they are finding blankets of oil covering the gulf floor.
Government scientists stand by their assessment that three-fourths of the crude that spilled into the gulf is now gone, but officials are quick to point out there is still a lot of oil in the water.
"1.25 million barrels was at some point in the subsurface," says NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco. "One quarter sounds like a small amount but that's the equivalent of four Exxon Valdez spills."
That, combined with a huge new fish kill off the coast of Louisiana, is enough to fuel lingering concerns about the safety of seafood from the region.
State officials say it was likely a lack of oxygen, not direct contact with oil, that led to the fish kill.
Meeting with members of the industry Wednesday, officials continued to try and ease fears over the gulf catch.
"It's the most tested, safest seafood in the world right now," Admiral Allen said.
Admiral Allen also confirmed today he plans to step down from his post as National Incident Commander in the next couple of weeks.
Allen officially retired from the Coast Guard june 30, but agreed to continue leading the response effort as an employee of the Department of Homeland Security.