ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. -- Preserving the beauty of the Haw River is a cause Melvin DuBose has dedicated himself to for years.
"This is part of our natural habitat, the water," said Dubose, who is a board member of the Haw River Assembly environmental group.
But over the past few months, he says the City of Burlington has made his job hard, especially after a 3.5 million gallon spill of sewage from the East Burlington Wastewater Treatment plant leaked into the river in January.
"It's dirty, dirty water," DuBose said. “It's like toilet water, a whole bunch of toilet water; everybody's toilet water in the river. That's pollution.”
The Haw River Assembly along with the Cape Fear River Watch is threatening to file a lawsuit against the city if they don't come up with a plan to prevent future spills within 60 days.
The groups served the city with a letter of intent April 15. The letter states that there have been 73 sewage spills in the river since 2008.
"We have spills periodically throughout the year each year," said Bob Patterson, director of Burlington's Water Resources.
Patterson says the city cleans up right away after every spill including the massive spill in January.
"We're in compliance with regulations,” Patterson said. “Our folks do an outstanding job of meeting those requirements."
It's a cleanup job environmentalists like DuBose want to see done faster.
"This is about health and clean water,” he said. “We need clean water."