msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6/8/2011 11:50:48 AM ET 2011-06-08T15:50:48

This Alabama city on Wednesday entered the fifth day of a water crisis that has forced a key hospital to cancel surgeries and seen hundreds of residents drive through to pick up bottled water.

The problem is a water system leak that's thought to be losing up to 2,000 gallons of water a minute in Talladega, a city of 80,000 best known for its Superspeedway racetrack.

As officials try to figure out where the leak is, relief efforts include a warehouse that's become a bottled-water distribution site with five lanes for residents to drive through.

"We’ve been using inmates, work release personnel, Emergency Management Agency personnel, Rescue Squad members and employees with Public Works and the Community Appearance Department" to distribute the water, City Manager Brian Muenger was quoted by The Daily Home as saying.

"We gave away 18 pallets of water last night and 16 this morning,” Muenger said Tuesday. "We’ve got four truck loads from the state EMA in Montgomery, so what we need now is volunteers to help us hand it out. The people here are pretty exhausted."

The shortage — some areas have seen all water cut off, while others are seeing fluctuating pressure — led Citizens Baptist Medical Center to cancel surgeries.

Residents with low water pressure are being urged to boil tap water before drinking it and to refrain from non-essential water usage, like washing cars and watering lawns.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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