Schervier declares water emergency


The roughly 300 elderly residents of Schervier Nursing Center have lacked running water for their sinks, showers and toilets since the center declared a water emergency due to unknown causes at 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 3.

A Schervier spokeswoman said the center at 2975 Independence Ave. has taken adequate steps to hydrate and bathe residents, and that there is no health risk.

But on Monday night, a resident voiced distress at the situation in which dozens are sharing bathrooms and staff members are resorting to microwaving water in order to clean residents.

“How can 40 residents on this side use one toilet? Isn’t that a health situation?” said Donald Bombardier, 73. “We’re like animals here, cave people.”

An announcement posted to Scheriver’s Facebook page and posted within the facility last Friday said low-pressure water was available on the ground floor of the building. In the rest of the five-story building, staff members were using water in buckets to flush two toilets in use on each floor.

The statement also said Schervier has 3,000 gallons of potable water and enough juice to last until Tuesday, and that there were sufficient sanitizing wipes and cleaning chemicals on site. 

The cause of the water emergency remained a mystery as of press time. Schervier’s Director of Marketing, Community and Philanthropy Laura Amerman said the facility was going through a process of elimination to determine the source of the problem, which the Jan. 5 statement described as a “low water pressure event.”

Ms. Amerman said that inspections to date determined all of the building’s internal systems were working properly, adding that recent construction work on Independence Avenue might have something to do with the problem.

Ms. Amerman said Scheriver has increased housekeeping staff to make sure bathrooms are being cleaned on a regular basis and that many mangers are working double shifts.

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Readers of the Riverdale Press will know the stories of Don and Leonard, described here is a small sample of how the lack of running water affected the quality of life, health or dignity of approximately 300 people who lived at Schervier (Bon Secours Health Systems) from January 3rd, when the nursing home lost water until the afternoon of January 10th, when running water was restored. The absence of running water affected the facility's kitchen, laundry, and housekeeping functions. The absence of running water affected bathing and resulted in very few flushing toilets and work-a-rounds for incontinence care. More than just these two people who live at Schervier were affected in similar or different ways. However, others shared their experiences only with insiders. There is a very real and justified fear of retribution for public disclosure in telling "how it affected me or mine" in nursing homes. This fear is not mitigated in the least by laws and the theoretical "rights of residents.” It is a direct result of the differential position of power between a nursing home with its management team and the dependent people and their advocates. Two members of the Schervier administration have already expressed verbal retribution to Don directly. This is equivalent to harassment in any other setting. None of the public announcements from Schervier, including the sole one from a member of the Board of Directors, volunteered an apology or related to knowing how it must feel to be without water, a quality called empathy. A real time chronological documentation of who did and said what and when with a few additional stories of those unnamed but not anonymously affected can be found on We have sufficient free legal resources ready to combat retribution against anyone who wants to describe the impact of being without running water for 7 days while at Schervier or any other future problems with quality of life and power differentials. Instrumental in getting the running water restored were the offices of NYS Senator Jeff Klein, US Senator Chuck Schumer and US Representative Eliot Engel.

Monday, January 13, 2014