Environmental Engineering

12/10/2014 Career


Environmental engineering is the
application of science and engineering principles to improve the
environment (air, water, and/or land resources), to provide healthy
water, air, and land for human habitation and for other organisms, and
to remediate polluted sites.

Environmental engineering involves water and air pollution
control, recycling, waste disposal, and public health issues. It also
includes studies on the environmental impact of proposed construction

Environmental engineers conduct hazardous-waste management
studies to evaluate the significance of the such hazards, advise on
treatment and containment, and develop regulations to prevent mishaps.
Environmental engineers also design municipal water supply and
industrial wastewater treatment systems as
well as being concerned with local and worldwide environmental issues
such as the effects of acid rain, ozone depletion, water pollution and
air pollution from automobile exhausts and industrial sources.

Scope of environmental engineering

Pollutants may be chemical, biological, thermal, radioactive, or
even mechanical. Environmental engineering emphasizes several areas:
process engineering, environmental chemistry, water and sewage treatment
(sanitary engineering), waste reduction/management, and pollution
prevention/cleanup. Environmental engineering is a synthesis of various
disciplines, incorporating elements from the following:

  • Civil engineering
  • Chemical engineering
  • Public health
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Geology
  • Ecology

Environmental engineering is the application of science and
engineering principles to the environment. Some consider environmental
engineering to include the development of sustainable processes. There
are several divisions of the field of environmental engineering.


Environmental impact assessment and mitigation

It is a decision making tool. In this division, engineers and
scientists assess the impacts of a proposed project on environmental
conditions. They apply scientific and engineering principles to
evaluate if there are likely to be any adverse impacts to water
quality, air quality, habitat quality, flora and fauna, agricultural
capacity, traffic impacts, social impacts, ecological impacts, noise
impacts, visual(landscape) impacts, etc. If impacts are expected, they
then develop mitigation measures to limit or prevent such impacts. An
example of a mitigation measure would be the creation of wetlands in a
nearby location to mitigate the filling in of wetlands necessary for a
road development if it is not possible to reroute the road.

Water supply and treatment

Engineers and scientists work to secure water supplies for
potable and agricultural use. They evaluate the water balance within a
watershed and determine the available water supply, the water needed for
various needs in that watershed, the seasonal cycles of water movement
through the watershed and they develop systems to store, treat, and
convey water for various uses. Water is treated to achieve water
quality objectives for the end uses. In the case of potable water
supply, water is treated to minimize risk of infectious disease
transmittal, risk of non-infectious illness, and create a palatable
water flavor. Water distribution systems are designed and built to
provide adequate water pressure and flow rates to meet various end-user
needs such as domestic use, fire suppression, and irrigation.

Wastewater conveyance and treatment

Most urban and many rural areas no longer discharge human waste
directly to the land through outhouse, septic, and/or honey bucket
systems, but rather deposit such waste into water and convey it from
households via sewer systems. Engineers and scientists develop
collection and treatment systems to carry this waste material away from
where people live and produce the waste and discharge it into the
environment. In developed countries, substantial resources are applied
to the treatment and detoxification of this waste before it is
discharged into a river, lake, or ocean system. Developing nations are
striving to obtain the resources to develop such systems so that they
can improve water quality in their surface waters and reduce the risk
of water-borne infectious disease.

There are numerous wastewater treatment technologies. A
wastewater treatment train can consist of a primary clarifier system to
remove solid and floating materials, a secondary treatment system
consisting of an aeration basin followed by flocculation and
sedimentation or an activated sludge system and a secondary clarifier, a
tertiary biological nitrogen removal system, and a final disinfection
process. The aeration basin/activated sludge system removes organic
material by growing bacteria (activated sludge). The secondary
clarifier removes the activated sludge from the water. The tertiary
system, although not always included due to costs, is becoming more
prevalent to remove nitrogen and phosphorus and to disinfect the water
before discharge to a surface water stream or ocean outfall.

Air quality management

Engineers apply scientific and engineering principles to the
design of manufacturing and combustion processes to reduce air pollutant
emissions to acceptable levels. Scrubbers, electrostatic precipitators,
catalytic converters, and various processes are utilized to remove
particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, volatile organic
compounds (VOC}, reactive organic gases (ROG) and other air pollutants
from flue gases and other sources prior to allowing their emission to
the atmosphere.

Scientists have developed air pollution dispersion models to
evaluate the concentration of a pollutant at a receptor or the impact on
overall air quality from vehicle exhausts and industrial flue gas stack

To some extent, this field overlaps the desire to decrease carbon
dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from combustion processes.


Other applications

  • Contaminated land management and site remediation
  • Risk assessment
  • Environmental policy and regulation development
  • Solid waste management
  • Hazardous waste management
  • Environmental health and safety
  • Natural resource management
  • Noise pollution

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