Crews work to clean 64,000 gallon jet fuel spill near Hobby Airport

HOUSTON – Southwest Airlines and others are investigating what caused a massive fuel spill at the Hobby Airport fuel farm on Sunday.

The spill was one of the largest ever worked by the Houston Fire Department hazmat squad.

HFD, the Port of Houston Fire Department, the Coast Guard and others responded early Sunday morning to reports of a fuel spill.

“Initial estimates were 64,000 gallons,” HFD’s Sheldra Brigham said, adding that private contractors took over the cleanup effort by Sunday afternoon.

The fuel farm is owned by Southwest and operated by SwissPort, Southwest said, adding that “an equipment malfunction” led to the spill but they “do not know the cause of the malfunction or the amount of fuel that escaped the containment area at this time.”

“We have multiple controls in place to prevent such an event from occurring,” the Southwest statement continued, “and we’ll work to ensure we take the proper steps to prevent any malfunctions from happening in the future.”

A Houston Airport System spokesman said no airport activities were affected and that, while fuel got into the spillways around the fuel farm -- the mostly empty drainage system -- no fuel made it into the ship channel or any major waterways.

“The facility operator along with an third party engineering firm are working through the chain of events to identify and fix the malfunction,” Southwest’s Chris Mainz added in a follow-up statement to KPRC.

“Our emergency response contractor is actively engaged in the ongoing reponse effort and will continue until the response is completed to the CG, HFD and Airport’s satisfaction,” the statement concluded.

The recovery and cleanup effort is expected to last a couple of weeks.