A top U.S. official says the damaged Gulf of Mexico BP oil well that was the source of this year's massive spill has been officially abandoned.
In a teleconference with reporters Wednesday, Coast Guard Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft said a final capping stack was placed on the well Monday.
He said the cap has an 11-point star etched on the top, each point representing one of the 11 people who lost their lives when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded April 20.
Millions of barrels of oil gushed out of the well until it was temporarily capped in mid-July.
Zukunft says about 42 kilometers of Gulf Coast beaches are still heavily oiled and response crews are working to clean them.
The admiral says the federal response team is working closely with the states of Florida and Alabama in particular to ensure their beaches are clean in time for the spring break tourist season in March and April.
Zukunft says it is difficult to establish an end date for the spill response effort .
In September, BP engineers plugged the bottom of the damaged well and it was declared permanently sealed.
The oil polluted the fragile southern U.S. coastline and damaged the region's fishing and tourism industries.