After water stopped flowing to the more than 300 elderly residents of Schervier Nursing Center on Jan. 3, Edna Hayes’ children offered to check her out of the facility so she could stay at one of their homes. But Ms. Hayes, 73, decided to stay at the center out of solidarity with her friends.
“I said, they’re making it; I’ve got to make it, too,” recounted Ms. Hayes, a retired school guidance counselor.
For the next week, Ms. Hayes drank bottled water provided by both Schervier and her children and cleaned herself by warming water with a compact stove in her room.
Meanwhile, experts from a total of four city and state agencies — the city and state Departments of Health (DOH) along with the city’s Department of Environmental Protection and Office of Emergency Management — worked with Schervier’s own staff to hunt down the source of the problem, according to Schervier officials.
Schervier’s CEO Carlos Beato said workers repeatedly analyzed the nine-acre facility’s plumbing. He added that around midnight on Jan. 8, experts deployed a ground-penetrating sonar device to see if there was a leak in the pipes between the center and the street. The results were negative.
“People may perceive this as, why didn’t they just find that earlier?” Mr. Beato said. “Well, everybody was looking. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.”
On Jan. 9, officials from the state DOH made an unannounced visit to inspect patient safety and did not find any problems, according to Schervier’s spokeswoman Laura Amerman.
Around 2 p.m. on the same day, the center reported that its director of facilities management had discovered the problem: a faulty gauge on the center’s water pump saying the pump was operating properly when it was in fact off.
Ms. Amerman said after the pump’s manufacturer informed the director of facilities management how to reactivate the device, Schervier staff turned on pipes in bathrooms and other areas on a room-by-room basis. The spokeswoman said Schervier lifted the water emergency around 5 p.m. on Jan. 10, once water was fully restored.
Ms. Hayes said she was elated and that a friend ran to her “like a child with a new toy.” “Everybody was happy,” she said. “We were dancing. Everybody was so glad.”