The letter of the day was “W.”
Mayor David Condon explained to a gaggle of restless preschoolers at the downtown Spokane library on Friday that the massive cranes in view out the window were building a tank that would help clean the water flowing through the Spokane River.
“It fills your cup up,” the mayor said, reciting from the children’s book “All the Water in the World” to the roughly 40 preschool students from the downtown YMCA.
“I like water,” one student said.
“I like chocolate milk,” piped up another preschooler.
With an assist from Ribby the Redband Trout, the latest mascot for the Spokane Indians, who accepted bearhugs from the students, Condon unveiled a new interactive display that allows visitors to construct their own combined stormwater system.
Using blue rubber golf balls, magnets and plastic tubing, children can build their own Rube Goldberg-like contraption that mimics the flow of rainfall through the city’s drainage system, which uses the massive tanks as a stopgap measure when torrential rain floods aging pipes that also carry untreated sewage to the Riverside Water Park Water Reclamation Facility. Too much water in the combined pipes triggers a release directly into the Spokane River, which the city is aiming to reduce as part of an agreement with the state Ecology Department.
The display will be housed in the downtown library, directly above where cranes dig the earth that will be replaced by a 2.2-million-gallon capacity tank. The tank will cost $30 million and is expected to be completed in 2019, according to city estimates.
Weekly storytimes with the students have addressed the machinery, which has been stationed on the bluff overlooking the lower Spokane Falls since March.
“We’ve recently brought a bunch of construction toys to children’s storytime, because the kids are so interested,” said Eva Silverstone, outreach liasion for the downtown library. “We got those specifically because of the construction, and the kids are emulating what is going on outside.”