ATLANTA — Rob Canty heard the news on TV Sunday morning at his home in St. Tammany Parish, La.: The wild oil well that changed his life -- and the lives of thousands of others along the Gulf Coast -- was sealed up, safely and permanently, thanks to an injection of cement 18,000 feet below the ocean's surface.
After nearly five months of heartache, misery and worry, the BP well in the Gulf of Mexico was dead.
The news was "real good," said Canty, a 31-year-old shrimper, but it wasn't likely to change his life back immediately. His shrimp boat is still contracted out indefinitely to BP, he said, and for the time being, he expects to remain among the 25,200 people hired to finish cleaning up the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
"We're ready to try to go back fishing, but I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon," Canty said. "We've still got oil out there."
Sunday's announcement of the successful "bottom kill" of the BP well was met with relief, but only muted fanfare, as nearly all the players in the drama -- including President Obama, outgoing BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward, and a number of Gulf Coast residents -- emphasized that the story was far from over, and that much more work remained to be done.
The final plugging of the well was a somewhat underwhelming denouement to one of the great engineering challenges in modern times. After a number of missteps, BP was able to seal the well in mid-July with a temporary custom cap. Once the oil had stopped flowing, experts embarked on a slow, careful, multistep process to ensure that it would be shut in for good. Throughout the process, Thad Allen, the federal spill response chief, asserted that the well could be considered dead only when the outer ring of the well was plugged with cement from deep underground.
Pressure tests were conducted late Saturday night that showed the cement job was a success.
On Sunday morning, Allen declared the well officially dead.
"From the beginning, this response has been driven by the best science and engineering available," Allen said in a statement Sunday. "We insisted that BP develop robust redundancy measures to ensure that each step was part of a deliberate plan, driven by science, minimizing risk to ensure we did not inflict additional harm in our efforts to kill the well."
That was about as happy as anyone allowed themselves to be, at least in public.
Even on the drilling rig some 50 miles off the Louisiana shore, crews didn't celebrate much. They'd treat themselves to prime rib for a job well done, but Rich Robson, the offshore installation manager, said the mood was bittersweet.
"To a lot of people, the water out here is a cemetery," he said.