ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (AP) - The Coast Guard has demanded that BP step up its efforts to contain the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico by the end of the weekend, telling the British oil giant that its slow pace in stopping the spill is becoming increasingly alarming as the disaster fouled the coastline in ugly new ways Saturday.
The Coast Guard sent a testy letter to BP's chief operating officer that said the company urgently needs to pick up the pace and present a better plan to contain the spill by the time President Barack Obama arrives on Monday for his fourth visit to the beleaguered coast.
The letter, released Saturday, follows nearly two months of tense relations between BP and the government and reflects the growing frustration over the company's inability to stop the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.
The dispute escalated on the same day that ominous new signs of the tragedy emerged on the beaches of Alabama. Waves of unsightly brown surf hit the shores in Orange Beach, leaving stinking, dark piles of oil that dried in the hot sun and extended up to 12 feet from the water's edge for as far as the eye could see.
It was the worst hit yet to Alabama beaches. Tar-like globs have washed up periodically throughout the disaster, but Saturday's pollution was significantly worse.
"This is awful," said Shelley Booker of Shreveport, La., who was staying in a condominium with her teenage daughter and her friends near the deserted beach about 100 miles from the site of the spill.
Scientists have estimated that anywhere between about 40 million gallons to 109 million gallons of oil have spewed into the Gulf since a drilling rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers.