'The public needs to be aware': Fuel spill affecting Sims Bayou

HOUSTON – It's a toxic situation on the Sims Bayou.

That is the reality just days after thousands of gallons of jet fuel spilled from a fuel farm at Hobby Airport. The farm is owned by Southwest Airlines.

The fuel has made its way to the bayou at the Houston Audubon's Urban Nature Center -- about two miles from the airport.

"It's in the air," the center's director Mary Anne Weber said. "Any kind of outside flame is very dangerous with the hydrocarbons and stuff."

Directors and staff first noticed the smell Tuesday -- just two days after the spill. They then saw sheets of fuel drifting on top of the water, a dangerous situation for the more than 100 species that call the bayou home.

"Eagles, osprey, herons, egrets, ducks, river otters," Weber said, referring to the bayou's species, "all kinds of fish and turtles."

The center is pleased with the reaction by emergency response teams from the city, county, state and Coast Guard. Crews placed booms in the water to contain the fuel for removal, but the nature center wants those who use the bayou to know the situation is deadly serious.

"The public needs to be aware," Weber said. "They shouldn't be fishing, shouldn't be lighting cigarettes or matches or anything near the bayou. There's a flammable liquid on top of the water."

Southwest Airlines said it pays Swissport to operate the fuel farm. Swissport, along with a third party engineering firm, is working to find the cause of the spill and to clean it up. They said the process could take a couple of weeks.

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