What is Environmental Engineering?
Definition: The application of science and
engineering knowledge and concepts to care
for and/or restore our natural environment
and/or solve environmental problems.
Who does it affect?
• Everyone & Everything!
– our planet
• Three areas:
– air quality
– land quality
– water quality
Poor air quality can lead to:
• respiratory & other illnesses
• acid rain
• global warming
Why is air quality such a problem?
From where do air pollutants come?
Air pollution in China
• Air pollutant: A known
substance in the air that
can cause harm to
humans and the
– nitrogen oxides (NOx)
– sulfur oxides (SOx)
– carbon monoxide (CO)
– carbon dioxide (CO2)
Effects of acid rain on plants
Greenhouse Gases & Global Warming
• Global warming: An increase in the average air
temperature of the Earth.
• Greenhouse effect: Heat from the sun gets trapped
inside the glass of a greenhouse and heats up its air.
• More carbon dioxide (CO2) being released in the
atmosphere traps more heat.
How do we reduce air pollutants?
• hybrid cars
• EPA government
• NEW: geologic carbon
• alternative fuels
• walk, bike or use
• Land pollution: Destruction of the Earth’s surface
caused by human activities and the misuse of
• Natural resources: Land and raw materials that
exist naturally in the environment undisturbed by
• Renewable resource: A natural resource that can
be replaced by a natural process.
• Non-renewable resource: A natural resource that
cannot be produced or re-grown or reused.
PowerPoint presentation for Introduction to Environmental Engineering lesson, TeachEngineering.org
Image sources: Earth: Visible Earth Gallery, NASA, http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=57723 Plant: National Science Foundation, http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/popup/leafsensor/plant.jsp Polar Bears: US Fish & Wildlife Service, http://www.fws.gov/phmay2012.html
Image sources: Sky: California Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/research.htm Meadow: National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/paradise.htm River: National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov/olym/naturescience/elwha-faq.htm
Image sources (clockwise from top left): Smoke stacks: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory http://www.lbl.gov/Education/ELSI/pollution-main.html Pollution particles form smog around construction of Beijing’s National Stadium: US Dept. of Energy, http://climatemodeling.science.energy.gov/research-highlights/cutting-air-pollution-got-boost-weather-scientists-compared-emission-controls Exhaust pipe smoke: State of Oklahoma, http://www.ok.gov/DCS/Fleet_Management/Sustainability.html Black truck exhaust: County of Los Angeles, http://ridley-thomas.lacounty.gov/index.php/2011/08/page/3/
NO2 is one of the most prominent air pollutants, released from vehicle exhaust SO2 (sulphur dioxide) is produced by volcanoes and in industrial processes. A lot of coal and petroleum contain sulfur products so when these are burned (combustion) they produce sulfur dioxide. When in the presence of NO2, it mixes to form sulfuric acid, which makes acid rain! CO is a poisonous gas and forms from incomplete combustion CO2 is a greenhouse gas emitted from combustion. Image sources: Acid rain damage to coffee plantation leaves downwind of a volcano in Costa Rica: US Geological Survey, http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/ash/agric/index.html http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/ash/agric/index.html Effects of acid rain on a forest in the Czech Republic: Nipik, Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Acid_rain_woods1.JPG
Melting Arctic Circle ice drives polar bears closer to extinction. The Arctic is the hot-seat of global warming, with rapidly melting ice a threat to polar bears, native Arctic culture, and the world’s coastal population living in warmer climates (affected by rising ocean levels and global climate change). Image sources: Global warming graphic: 2005, Mike Edwards, Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Global_warming_graphic.png Polar bears: The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, http://globalwarming.markey.house.gov/impactzones/arctic
Image sources: Hybrid electric car: Argonne National Laboratory, http://www.transportation.anl.gov/publications/transforum/v7/v7n1/plug-in_technology.html Solar panels providing shade and electricity to recharge the batteries of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/v41_1_08/article11.shtml Using public transportation, like buses: National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov/cabr/planyourvisit/publictransportation.htm
To determine whether an item is renewable or non-renewable, look at our consumption of it. For example, wood is a natural resource because we can re-grow trees, but if we are cutting down forests at a faster rate than we are planting them, then wood becomes a non-renewable resource. Image sources: Solar panels: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, http://newscenter.lbl.gov/feature-stories/2010/02/26/renewable-energy-target/ Hydropower: US Dept. of Energy, http://www.eere.energy.gov/basics/renewable_energy/hydropower.html Timber (biomass): Town of Stratham, NH, http://www.strathamnh.gov/Pages/StrathamNH_Assessing/timber Oil rig: California Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/oil-gas/oil-gas.htm Turtle in oil spill in Louisiana: Lee Celano, REUTERS via State of Louisiana, http://coastal.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=pagebuilder&tmp=home&pid=157 Coal train: Energy Information Administration via Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse, http://teeic.anl.gov/er/coal/restech/tech/index.cfm
Acid mine drainage is the outflow of acidic water from abandoned coal mines. This water is so acidic that it kills plant and animal life it encounters. The herbicides and pesticides used to kill weeds or insects while growing crops destroy the soil and pollute water sources and can cause birth defects and other diseases in humans. Land fills exist all over the world. Their decaying materials release methane gas. which is another greenhouse gas (much worse than carbon dioxide) and decaying materials destroy the landfill soil. Image sources: WV stream affected by acid mine drainage: US Geological Survey, http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs-050-99/ Piles of trash in a landfill: St. Louis County, MN, http://www.stlouiscountymn.gov/LANDPROPERTY/GarbageRecycling.aspx Man pouring pesticides: US Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov/oecaagct/ag101/croppestmgt.html
Buy bio-degradable items, which are made from natural resources that break down over time and do not cause any environmental damage or release any greenhouse gases. An easy way to do this is to always choose paper over plastic grocery bags, or better yet—reuse an old bag many, many times. Buy organic foods instead of processed foods because they are better for you and our environment! People are considering taxing processed foods as a disincentive to their use, and to obtain some funding to restore the environmental damage they cause. Always recycle so that non-biodegradable items, such as plastic, do not add to landfills or pollute the land and oceans of our planet. Image sources: Recycle logo and globe: Howard County, MD, http://cc.howardcountymd.gov/displayprimary.aspx?id=6442459560 Go Organic (green pepper): Natural Resources Conservation Service in Iowa, http://www.ia.nrcs.usda.gov/news/brochures/publications.html USDA logo: US Dept. of Agriculture, http://www.ars.usda.gov/Main/docs.htm?docid=6607 Biodegradable spoon: Amanda Wills, Earth911.com via California State Senate, http://sd07.senate.ca.gov/news/2011-05-15-clarifying-biodegradable-vs-compostable-california One less bag challenge: King County, WA, http://your.kingcounty.gov/solidwaste/garbage-recycling/biodegradable-bags.asp
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