OAKMAN, Ala. (WIAT) — In March, construction trucks started hauling dirt and clay along Mary Bolton’s street.

“It’s been terrible, I’ll be honest,” Bolton said. “It’s been bad through here, but it was paved. It was nothing like this. We had the holes, but it was nothing like this.”

Bolton said the road conditions deteriorated in about three weeks. She believes the added weight is eating away at the roads. Bolton said she broke an axle on her car and had to put more tires on it because of the damage left behind.

The path left behind from the trucks hauling for Plant Gorgas retirement project (Photo courtesy of Jen Cardone).

She immediately started her work to get help from the county and the state.

“I’m hitting a door, something’s gotta be done,” Bolton said.

That’s when she called CBS 42 for help.

We learned that the project is connected to Plant Gorgas, an old Alabama Power steam plant that was retired in 2019. Plant Gorgas opened in 1917 and provided power for the community for over a century.

Plant Gorgas following 2021 implosion to retire the plant. (Courtesy of Alabama Power)

Alabama Power spokesman Anthony Cook said the clay and field dirt coming from down Bolton’s street is filling in the basement of the old plant.

“The plant was retired as part of the company’s efforts to what we’re doing evolving our generations towards this so that we have a balance of energy mix for our customers,” Cook said, “We have multiple ways of producing electricity – Plant Gorgas was one of those. Retiring it is something that helps to balance out the multiple generations of ways that we produce electricity.”

After learning about the damage happening along the roads, Cook said they immediately started working directly with the county to make temporary repairs.

“Those temporary fixes, they’re going to continue through the duration of this project,” Cook said.

District Three County Commissioner Jim Borden said he was aware of the project and did not expect the roads to give way as quickly as they have. He said Dixie Springs Road is made of tar and gravel.

“They’re really not designed to carry the loads and the number of loads that are being transported,” Borden said. “Public safety is a priority on our roads. We may not always be able to keep them in the condition that they need to be.”

Cook said the power company is working directly with Walker County to help patch up damaged spots – and water the roads to keep lower dust levels.

Bolton said a water truck passes by her home at least twice a day. Borden said it keeps the dust down.

“We realize that this is not ideal,” Cook said. “We’re working, frankly, with the contractor to try and identify another source for the clay. In the meantime, we just apologize for the inconvenience, and we ask for the community’s patience as we do this work.”

Borden said they can’t fully redo the road until the hauling is complete because they’ll be right back where they started. However, when it ends, he said they’ll expedite the resurfacing process.

Cook said their plan is to leave the road better than they found it.

“Our anticipation is once we implement this permanent solution, the roads are going to be in even better condition than they were before we started,” Cook said.

Bolton worries it won’t happen fast enough.

“We can’t wait on Alabama Power to pave this road that we’re living on or we’re going to get killed,” Bolton said. “We need our life is what we need. We need people to care about us.”

A map showing the distance between Dixie Springs Road and Plant Gorgas (Created using Datawrapper).

Borden and Cook also state they are looking into finding an alternate site to haul the clay and dirt to, which is difficult as there are limited clay and fil suppliers in the area.

Bolton also expressed concerns about the speed of the trucks that are hauling the clay and field dirt.

Two of the truck companies subcontracted to haul tell CBS 42 they are running the posted speed limits or even slower because they’re worried the roads won’t hold up. They said they don’t want to damage their trucks more than they’ve already been and said they’re just trying to make a living like anyone else.

If the weather and conditions cooperate – the plan is to finish the hauling by September and fix the road for good.

Cook said right now there are no future plans for the site, but said Alabama Power is aways looking for was to use the property to benefit the community and serve the state. He said they will plan to explore options in the future.