BP engineers yesterday desperately explored options to control oil gushing from a ruptured Gulf of Mexico well after a setback with a huge containment dome fueled fears of a prolonged and growing environmental disaster.

BP was considering its next move after a buildup of crystallized gas in the dome forced engineers to suspend efforts to place the four-story chamber over the rupture, the company’s best short-term solution to containing the spill.

The mammoth dome was set aside on the sea floor while BP seeks solutions — a process it said on Saturday could take two days.


“People are working around the clock at BP headquarters,” U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen told National Public Radio on Sunday. But conducting operations at depths of one mile below the surface was complicating the challenge, he said. “We’re actually dealing with a source that doesn’t have human access.”

At least 5,000 barrels of oil a day are gushing unchecked into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20.

On Dauphin Island, Ala., a barrier island and beach resort full of weekend swimmers and beachcombers, sunbathers found tar balls and tar beads washing up along a half-mile stretch of the white-sand beach.

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