The government's point man for the Gulf oil spill says there's been a delay in a procedure that will help stop the gusher for good.
Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Friday that debris was found in the bottom of the relief well that must be fished out before crews can pump mud into the broken well in a procedure known as a static kill.
This comes as BP admits it's scaling back cleanup operations with fewer boats skimming and laying boom and fewer workers on land, CBS News Correspondent Don Teague reports from Grand Isle, La.
The sediment settled in the relief well last week when crews popped in a plug to keep it safe ahead of Tropical Storm Bonnie. They found it as they were preparing for the static kill and now they have to remove it. They had hoped to start the static kill as early as Sunday, but removing the debris will take 24 to 36 hours and like push the kill back to Tuesday.
"It's not a huge problem, but it has to be removed before we can put the pipe casing down," Allen said Friday.
The procedure intended to ease the job of plugging the blown-out well for good.
The static kill involves pumping heavy mud into the busted well from the top. Then comes the bottom kill, where the relief well will be used to pump in mud and cement from the bottom; that process will take days or weeks, depending on the effectiveness of the static kill.
Separately Friday, Bob Dudley, who heads BP's oil spill recovery and will take over as CEO in October,, and in areas where there is no oil, "you probably don't need to see people in hazmat suits on the beach."
According to BP's website, more than 47,000 people were employed responding to the spill about three weeks ago, Teague reports. On Friday, the number has fallen to below 33,000, difficult news for out-of-work fishermen who now rely on BP paychecks.
Dudley added, however, that there is "no pullback" in BP's commitment to clean up the spill. Dudley was in Biloxi, Miss. to announce that former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief James Lee Witt will be supporting BP's Gulf restoration work.
Suggestions that the environmental effects of the spill have been overblown have increased as oil has disappeared from the water's surface, though how much of the oil remains underwater is a mystery. Dudley rejected efforts to downplay the spill's impact, saying, "Anyone who thinks this wasn't a catastrophe must be far away from it."
BP is hiring Witt, FEMA director under President Clinton, and his public safety and crisis management consulting firm. BP did not say how much Witt would be paid.
Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said it's clear the cleanup effort is being scaled back even though oil is still showing up on the coast.
"We know there's a lot of oil out there," Nungesser said. "It's going to continue to come ashore, and we're going to hold their feet to the fire to make sure they're there until all the oil is gone out of the Gulf of Mexico before we pull all of the assets out of our parish."
The gusher set off by an April 20 oil rig explosion spewed between 94 million gallons and 184 million gallons into the Gulf before a temporary cap stopped the flow July 15.