BP announced today that efforts to use the top kill method to stop the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon well have failed. Some 30,000 barrels of ‘drill mud’ had been forced into the well, along with ‘junk shot’, items ranging from golf balls to shredded tires. Despite early promising signs, BP engineers now say the plan has failed and oil is still flowing from the well head.

In a press conference today, BP’s chief operating officer, Doug Suttles and Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry gave the bad news. Since Wednesday, all had hoped that the top kill technique would at least buy time until a more permanent solution, the drilling of a relief well, could take place. If there is any good news today for residents of the Gulf region, it is that progress in drilling the relief well is ahead of schedule. However, the oil spill may not be fully stopped until August.

Meanwhile, BP will attempt to deploy a containment system, known as the Lower Marine Riser Package, or LMRP cap. First, the remains of the damaged drill pipe must be cleared away. Then, the cap itself will be lowered over the well. An attached siphon will try to capture most of the discharging crude oil, but not all of it. This procedure could take four to seven days to accomplish.

Other bad news today is that previous estimates on the rate of oil being spilt have been dramatically increased. At first, BP said only 1,000 barrels per day were being discharged into the Gulf of Mexico. Then that number was raised to 5,000 barrels per day. But now, the estimates are that between 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day are spilling into the Gulf! Mind you, the well is capable of as many as 50,000 barrels per day.

Already, some 107 miles of coastline have been contaminated, including over 30 miles of wetlands. Since the initial explosion and fire on April 20th of the Transoceanic rig, killing 11 workers, this has now surpassed the Exxon Valdez as the worst oil spill in U.S. history. More than 20,000 people are working hard at trying to clean and save the beaches and marshes along the coast. But with BP reporting today that the top kill has failed, and that the rate of oil being discharged is much higher that previously thought, the task before those workers grows grimmer.