Environmental Engineers Impacting the World Around Us

by Modis on September 26, 2017

Protecting our planet for future generations is at the heart of a career in environmental engineering.

Public awareness and concern for environmental issues have grown steadily since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created new requirements for government and industries to evaluate their impacts on the environment.

The environmental engineering occupation was born due to organizations’ need to help perform evaluations and mitigate any harm to human beings and the environment caused by their operations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected faster than average job growth for environmental engineers between 2014 and 2024, which makes the need for environmental engineers as strong as ever.

Protecting Water Resources

One of the most important jobs for environmental engineers is ensuring that cities have access to clean, fresh drinking water. It is their responsibility to study and discover the source to any problems found in the city’s water system and develop unique ways to continue to provide safe water. Environmental engineers are needed to help detect and remediate municipal water contamination caused by chemical spills, or leaks from refineries and chemical plants.

As new pharmaceuticals, nanoparticles and other chemicals are developed, they pose potential threats to the water supply through municipal sewage systems. Thanks to advances in technology, environmental engineers can detect even smaller amounts of contaminants that may cause health problems and can assess the extent of these threats so that they can engineer new solutions.

Managing Solid Waste

Another important facet of environmental engineering is developing integrated solid waste management (ISWM) systems for trash, human and animal waste, construction waste and industrial waste, which is generated by cities, businesses and agriculture.

Conserving resources is important for future sustainability; so engineers are working to improve systems for reusing, recycling or processing solid wastes. Environmental engineers are continuing to develop systems to protect the public from hazardous wastes, including radiation wastes and spent fuel from nuclear power plants, and toxic substances generated by mining and oil & gas production.

Ensuring Air Quality – Indoors and Out

Environmental engineers work to ensure that air quality meets health standards, both indoors and out. No matter where we are, whether at work, at home or traveling in between we face harmful emissions from various objects around us.

We are subject to indoor air pollution from chemicals in paint, furniture and construction materials. Over the years, Environmental engineers help developed healthier alternatives free of harmful volatile organic chemicals (VOC), such as benzene. Engineers are also working to design “smart buildings,” which use sensors and an intelligent network to maintain air quality.

Carbon dioxide emissions are just one part of the equation when it comes to outdoor air quality. Coal, oil and natural gas, give off pollutants when burned to produce electricity. Environmental engineers have created sensors to collect data in order to monitor these emissions. Over the years engineers have been working to design various renewable energy systems that don’t rely on fossil fuels. Some of the current renewable energy systems include solar, wind and fuel cells.

Sustainable Development

Modeling food-energy-water systems and developing more sustainable agricultural and industrial processes are becoming more important globally. To solve these large-scale problems, environmental engineers must be able to communicate with a wide range of people, work in multi-disciplinary teams to help businesses around the world increase energy efficiency and sustainability.

For the foreseeable future, environmental engineering promises to remain a rewarding career. Beyond the stable paycheck, environmental engineers will have the satisfaction of knowing that their work will benefit future generations. Whether you’re seeking a career in environmental engineering or looking for ways to incorporate environmental work in your current engineering specialty, the options are plenty as the industry continues to evolve.

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