The new discovery of seepage near the plugged BP well has alarmed federal officials who have warned the company to rigorously monitor the seabed. BP must be prepared to reopen the well immediately if scientists find evidence of spin-off leakage near the oil cap, according to a testy official apparently frustrated by BP's earlier failure to respond to requests for information. "When seeps are detected, you are directed to marshal resources, quickly investigate, and report findings to the government in no more than 4 hours," fed oil response chief Thad Allen wrote in a letter to BP.
"I direct you to provide me a written procedure for opening the choke valve as quickly as possible without damaging the well should hydrocarbon seepage near the wellhead be confirmed." BP's seal on its well seems to be holding, but fed officials are worried that that the seal could instead push oil out of any cracked underground pipes up to the seafloor, creating a multitude of hard-to-control smaller leaks. Allen's letter refers to a "detected seep a distance from the well" and unspecified "anomalies at the well head," reports the Los Angeles Times. BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said yesterday that "a few bubbles" had been found near the well, but that they did not consist of hydrocarbons.