Oil continues to cover Florida beaches, and workers continue to clean it up, but more remains buried beneath the sand (more after the jump).

Still, some tourists aren’t leaving. Fortunately for them, the health advisory against swimming has been lifted.

More than one month after objections were first raised, the use of chemical dispersants continues, unchanged, despite the concerns of University of South Florida scientists, the EPA, and others. According to the latest official numbers, “approximately 1.48 million gallons of total dispersant have been applied—977,000 on the surface and 502,000 subsea. More than 422,000 gallons are available.”

The non-BP firms involved with Deepwater Horizon are working to insulate themselves from legal liability.

“The last stand against gulf oil spill”
The Miami Herald examines efforts to protect beaches.

Although state officials say there are about 20 skimming vessels working night and day straining matted and weathered oil from the sea, there are too few of them to cover much of the vast Gulf, and the effort is more art than science.

“It’s almost like beating a grizzly bear with a hickory stick,” said charter boat Capt. Paul Redman Jr., who has been battling the oil on his “vessel of opportunity” — the label for private boats serving in the cleanup — for about three weeks. “You’re going to fight till you can’t fight no more. No one wants to give up.”

The failure to stop the oil from hitting shore has frustrated area residents and raised questions about the effectiveness of the cleanup effort. But it has also brought home the point that there is no way to protect the 50-plus miles of Panhandle coastline now vulnerable to the oil.

This is what failure looks like:

The oil beneath the sand
Even the Pensacola beaches that look clean above ground may have oil below.

Thursday evening, a News Journal reporter visited the “clean” section of Pensacola Beach near Peg Leg Pete’s off Fort Pickens Road.

At a glance, it appeared at least 90 percent of the oil was gone. Scattered tar balls and a few bigger chunks of fresh crude were all that remained on the surface.

But when the reporter dug about an inch into the wet sand near the high tide line, his fingers sank into thick sheets of tar.

A team of USF researchers, led by geologist Ping Wang, made a similar discovery: “a dark, contiguous vein of oil” buried under a few inches of sand.

While picking up tar balls and oil patties from the surface is helpful, Wang’s discovery suggests that type of cleaning will be inadequate.

“This is going to be hard to clean up,” he said. “It’s going to need to be a much larger scale effort than what we’re seeing.”

Reid’s gamble
Sen. Harry Reid may try to sneak climate change legislation through Congress by attaching it to an offshore drilling overhaul.

Thus far, Reid can’t count on all Democrats coalescing around this approach. Several say they are fearful that hitching a popular oil reform bill to a big, unwieldy climate plan will just sink legislation that could otherwise serve as a quick, easy and politically popular win.

One leading Democrat who’s wary of Reid’s strategy is the leader of the party’s 2010 Senate campaign committee, Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

“I think we should do them separately,” he said. “The oil regulation bill is moving fast and has a lot of support.”

“Hands across the sand”: Environmental groups have planned a massive protest for Saturday.

“A waste of time and money”: Introducing a massive oil-cleaning machine.

Lede of the week: “Meet Bob Dudley, the human relief well.”

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