Environmental engineering applies the principles of several engineering and scientific disciplines to ensure the protection and responsible management of the environment. Specifically, this field draws on the fundamental elements of chemistry, biology, and geology. However, environmental engineering also observes chemical, civil, and mechanical engineering practices, as well as those governed by environment laws regarding public health and safety. Since this field incorporates such a broad spectrum of studies, environmental engineering services also vary widely in scope.
Heading the list of common environmental engineering services is environmental impact assessment. An evaluation of the potential impact on an environment in question may be made prior to proposed construction on a site, or in response to pending litigation as the result of a project having been completed and causing problems. The specific services provided in either case usually include an evaluation of the quality of air, water, and biodiversity of the site. However, environmental engineers also assess how site conditions impose on human life in terms of noise level, visual impact, or economic consequences. Typically, the engineer’s environmental impact assessment also includes recommendations regarding the abatement and remediation of relevant factors that may negatively affect the environment and surrounding community.
The process of collecting, storing, and treating wastewater represents another key division of environmental engineering services. In short, this involves the transport of human waste away from residential areas to a facility where it can be treated with various technologies before being released into the environment. The treatment methods typically follow a progression of organic controls to filter solid waste, remove nitrogen and phosphorus, and introduce antibacterial agents to disinfect the remaining material before being discharged into surface water or other designated waterway system.
Environmental engineering services also include monitoring natural watershed systems to identify and improve potential sources that may enhance the public water supply. These services typically include an assessment of the ecological health of the system, as well as the volume of water being channeled to the site via various other sources, such as melting rain and snow or secondary bodies of water. Engineers working in this area are also involved in designing systems to capture and store needed water, in addition to developing treatment plans, if necessary.
Environmental engineering also encompasses hazardous waste management to help minimize the impact of potentially harmful substances to the environment and public health. Toward this goal, some environmental engineers provide expert evaluations and recommendations that contribute to the development of environmental laws and regulations. In addition, many engineers serve as third-party consultants to identify and assist in the cleanup of contaminated sites.