By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In the wake of this wicked winter, Philadelphia City Council plans to hold a hearing on how road crews are using salt.

City councilman Jim Kenney has a long list of concerns about how the Streets Department uses salt and he is planning a hearing to examine them.   Topping the list is whether road salt poses serious health hazards to dogs or even small children.

“The research we’ve done and the people we’ve talked to say that if they ingest too much, it can cause liver failure, pancreatic failure,” Kenney notes.

Streets commissioner David Perri says he’s always known that salt irritates the paws of dog, but he is not aware of more serious health hazards.

“I’m not familiar with those issues.  I know that rock salt is not a favorite of dog owners.  I’m not aware that it is a particular hazard to human beings or to children,” he tells KYW Newsradio.

Another concern for Kenney is whether the city lays the salt down too soon in advance of a storm:

“I’ve talked to people from cities that have a lot of snow.  They don’t usually lay the rock salt down until the snow has started to fall.  I’ve noticed here in Philadelphia we’ve been laying it down a day before the snow even starts.”


(Philadelphia city councilman James Kenney, in file photo.)

(Philadelphia city councilman James Kenney, in file photo.)

And Kenney believes that Penndot — the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation — does a better job than city crews of allocating salt:

“Their equipment is computerized and can tell how much rock salt we should be putting down.  What I see in the city this snow season is just a dumping of salt all over the place.”

But Perri, the streets commissioner, says crews don’t just dump the salt.

“We do meter it out like the state does,” he says.  “We have augers and spreaders on the salt trucks that try to spread in a uniform manner.”

Perri does say his department is already looking into ice-melting chemicals that would work in more colder temperatures than rock salt does.

“I think there are other products that we could possible use out there that would make the salt more effective in some of the lower temperature storms that we’re experiencing these days,” he says.

No date was set for the hearing.