Environmental Engineering

free essayAlong with the intensive industrial development, the human impact on the environment increases and its components are subjected to major changes. People domesticated a significant amount of animals, and at the same time caused the disappearance of a huge number of wild animals on the Earth. Reducing the area of forests to agricultural land, a human being transforms the landscape into wastelands and meadows. The Earth’s surface varies significantly in engineering structures, transforming the river systems in the network of canals and reservoirs.

The impact of industry on the environment increased the natural productivity of landscapes by means of drainage and irrigation, resulting in disturbed soil and water balance (Vesilind, Peirce, & Weiner, 1997). The intensity of the manufacturing industry and energy, as well as the use of chemicals in agriculture and increase in the number of transport poses a serious threat to the environment if all these manufacturing processes occur without taking into account the conditions of nature conservation. Therefore, in spite of the growing environmental impact a human being has onto the nature, the attempts of common ecological science to preserve the Earth’s nature are useless. Consequently, the new science, involving all spheres of human activity and solving the growing technology pollution problem by taking necessary measures, is needed. In 1960s, such science has appeared – environmental engineering.

General Characteristics of Environmental Engineering

Environmental Engineering is a new trend in environmental science, which studies the interaction of nature and technology, formation patterns of natural-technical systems and possible management of these systems, so as to ensure environmental safety and protection of the natural environment. Environmental engineering tasks are to ensure environmental compliance processes and the technology itself at industrial sites. Engineering ecology provides a full range of interrelated tasks, such as:

  • Regulation of industrial land development, placement and construction of industrial facilities in terms of environmental safety. Optimization of the industrial structure;
  • Determination of the admissibility of human impacts on the territory, control and regulation of the flow of material and energy production and the impact of fabricated engineering objects;
  • Industrial environmental engineering works in the direction of providing conditions for clean production, developing resources and energy-saving low-waste technologies, eco-friendly materials and other spheres of production;
  • Control and responsibility for environmental safety of industrial systems, products, machinery, buildings, industrial processes;
  • Development of engineering and environmental practices, preventive maintenance, as well as rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas affected by the activities of production.

In literature, along with the term “environmental engineering” terms of similar meaning are often used, but they are not synonymous. These include “applied ecology”, “industrial ecology”, “environmental protection”, etc. The latter term is of particular importance since it deals with similar aims and problems.

Environmental protection is by definition a system of legal, technical and sanitary measures aimed to ensure the management, conservation and restoration of natural resources. Environmental protection should be referred to the board, widely using ecological knowledge with more prohibitions or restrictions meaning technical, legal, organizational and some others rather than optimization of wildlife (Vesilind et al., 1997). On the other hand, the environment is a system practically implementing those targeted actions, which are formed (with the scientific rationale and experimental confirmation) within the framework of self-discipline “Environmental engineering”. Consequently, environmental engineering is a combination for technical knowledge in every field of industry as well as a legal issue of environmental protection, creating a basis for optimal use of natural resources.

Environmental Engineering History

Despite the fact that the environmental engineering is a relatively young science, its notion and techniques have been used as early as the ancient times. The realization of environment and nature protection intended for human well-being and health is not new. Even in ancient time, there were measures to improve the quality of the environment, in particular, the human habitat. For example, ancient Harappan civilization used collectors and some type of sewerage system in their cities (Franzle, Markert, & W?nschmann, 2012). The Romans are famous for building aqueducts that help fight with drought and provide clean, healthy water for the inhabitants of Roman capital. Later, in the 15th century the region of Bavaria began the legal realization of environmental engineering purposes. They adopted a law that forbade and restricted the development and degradation of alpine countryside, being responsible for water supply throughout the whole country.

Environmental engineering as a separate discipline of ecology emerged only in the middle of the XX century in connection with the general public’s concern about water pollution and environmental pollution and degradation. Previously, these questions were related only to ecology (Franzle et al., 2012). Conversely, its roots go back to the early attempts to improve the environment by means of modern technology. Modern engineering environment protection concept appeared in London in the middle of the XIX century with the development of the first sewing system. Joseph Bazalzhett, the inventor of this system aimed to reduce the number of patients with water-transmitted diseases, such as cholera, and succeeded (Franzle et al., 2012). Further development led to the establishment of drinking water and wastewater treatment in countries with developed industry. As the result, the number of incidences of fatal diseases transmitted through water was significantly reduced. The quality of water was one of the main problems of contemporary cities. The water treatment system changed the image of the 19th century cities and began a new era of technologies, being applied for changing the environmental situation. This was the official start of environmental engineering explicit development.

Orientation of Study

The environmental engineering object of study is the impact of environmental factors and living organisms on the facilities (Vesilind et al., 1997). Human beings are trying to reduce the impact of their activity on nature, and nature is able to defend itself in response to the thoughtless and wasteful use of natural resources (Mitsch, 2012). There are several general fields where environmental engineering works and helps develop the harmonic interrelations between humankind and environment.

Agricultural engineering. This branch of environmental engineering science interacts with the biological basis of agriculture and animal husbandry. The ecosystem approach provides the principles and tools for the rational use of the Earth’s resources, aimed at improving the productivity of the industry and production of environmentally friendly products (Vesilind et al., 1997).

This can be confirmed by many examples from recent reports on agriculture. For example, the possibility of implementing an ambitious project that is the creation of “mega back-court” is discussed in Dagestan. It is scheduled to start production by means of modern innovative methods, computerization and robotics (Aliyeva, 2015). These technologies are a result of modern engineering development that meets the highest European standards. Dagestan complex marketable products will be grown in an environmentally responsible manner, without causing harm to the environment (Aliyeva, 2015).

Bioresource ecology. It examines the conditions, under which it can be possible to use natural ecosystems without causing the disruption of the ecological balance, depletion, loss of biodiversity and a complete loss of species (Vesilind et al., 1997). This is serious work on the development of effective methods for the recovery and enrichment of biological resources, creation of reserves, acclimatization of plants and animals.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the fish catch on a global scale exceeds the permitted limit in 2.5 times (“Bycatch threats overview,” n.d.). Such reckless use of global fish stocks has led to depletion of more than half of the reserve. Large species of fish such as marlin, tuna, swordfish, flounder, halibut and cod will disappear in 2048 if the situation with uncontrolled catches does not change. In this situation, the work of environmental engineering provides the encouraging news. For example, in Tyumen region of Russia there is the plant for tilapia growing. The plant uses modern technology for closed water supply. The first production was obtained in the third quarter of 2013 and showed the surprising and promising results (Pavlov, Chuiko, & Pavlov, 2014). Such fish production does not cause harm to the existing ecosystem simultaneously providing humanity with a sufficient amount of fish. This example can be applied to any other type of bioresources, which is the primary aim of ecosystem ecology nowadays.

Ecology of settlements and areas of medicine, in its turn, examines the characteristics and impacting factors of transformed artificial on to the environment of the population living in towns and big cities (Franzle et al., 2012). Medical ecology studies the conditions for the occurrence, transmission and development of various diseases in humans in acute or chronic forms. The aims of this study include investigating natural factors leading to diseases, caused by man-made adverse effects on the environment (Vaughn, 1978).

Experts of relevant ministries and agencies in many countries have long been identifying the patterns in the emergence of new diseases in connection with the state of the environment. Several environmental specialists and veterinarians together with epidemiologists and medical scientists are taking serious steps to identify the concept of “environmental illness”. This is only one part the US-funded global project “Forecast” is aimed at realizing. Experts are trying to figure out how knowledge about synthetic changes in the landscape (the construction of farm roads, dams, etc.) can assist in predicting the emergence of new diseases among mankind. This is due to the pressing need to understand the laws of the natural ecosystem and reasonably take care of it (Franzle et al., 2012). Otherwise, the system will stop providing “services” that humankind so thoughtlessly uses and nature will probably begin a large-scale persecution of humanity so that no one can predict the consequences of such event. A good example is modern diseases with epidemic including AIDS, West Nile fever, Ebola, SARS, Lyme disease, and many hundreds of others, the occurrence of which is not accidental.

Contribution to Environment Maintenance

The role of environmental engineering in maintaining the environment cannot be underestimated. In fact, it is the main tool for proper treatment and creation of environmentally friendly appliances and substances (Franzle et al., 2012). Environmental engineers’ work covers a wide range of spheres and branches, providing the humanity with innovative and naturalistic solutions of saving and cleaning the environment. Without such engineering solutions as water and air filters, water cleaning system, sewerage system, alternative power sources and other facilities, the plane would have already been drowned in wastes and suffocated in fossil fuels (Vesilind et al., 1997). The major fields of human activities, where environmental engineering achieved great success and started helping to maintain the environment are given below.

Environmental Power Engineering

This branch is one of the most global and practical in environmental engineering. In addition, alternative sources of energy are the main trend in modern industry as being the most ecological and healthy for employees. In fact, the alternative in this case is a determination of a mode of action, similar to the previous methods. Alternative energy replaces traditional methods of producing energy (Franzle et al., 2012). Alternative energy is profitable in all of its parameters that is economically, environmentally and industrially. However, first of all, it is more environmentally friendly than traditional energy sources.

Incredible projects and ideas concerning the creation of alternative energy sources sometimes take the form of the science fiction. However, the engineering designs and projects in this sphere are very serious and applicable. The most widespread manifestation of environmental engineering in power industry is solar panels, tidal energy plants and wind turbines. Among the most unusual sources of energy one can find tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, wastes, plants and other sources, which are currently being developed and used for energy supply (Vesilind et al., 1997).

Today, houses with roofs covered with solar panels have become common. Hybrid cars or cars requiring twice less fuel than simple automobiles have become the reality. They have been commercially available for over 10 years (Vesilind et al., 1997). Recently manufacturers have started producing serial electric cars that do not consume an ounce of gasoline. This is the direct result of environmental engineering solutions, applied for such common facilities as cars and houses.

As it was said above, environmental power engineering forms the greatest part of environmental engineering and is the most popular science. Engineering designs in this branch are among the most diverse. Moreover, engineering decisions in this field are most commonly used nowadays. For example, solar energy is the most common and cost-effective way to heat the water in the pool or plumbing (Franzle et al., 2012). On the other hand, the production of electricity using solar and photovoltaic cells nowadays form a considerable part of the world’s power.

Wind power still occupies a small part of the energy market, due to its main drawback, which is the lack of wind turbine power in the absence of wind. Nevertheless, engineers all over the world are currently trying to solve this problem. Only in Denmark, the percentage of wind power stations comprises 20 per cent of the country’s power market (Vesilind et al., 1997). Engineering solutions in the field of wind energy are among the most developed and innovative.

A lot of attention today is paid to the miniature hydroelectric power plants. Waterwheel prototype of hydroelectric turbine has been used since time immemorial. Mini hydropower plants work for a long time, providing electricity to homes, small towns and industrial facilities. In countries with high seismological activity, engineers are aimed to build geothermal power plants (DiPippo, 2012). They work on the thermal energy of groundwater. In the future, this heat can be used to generate electricity and heat in a cold season premises. However, even today there exists such type of energy, using the heat from the Earth’s deep interior, already feeding New Zealand and Iceland with power.

Finally, biofuel as the direct product of bioengineering is one of the most promising issues among environmental engineering technological solutions. Bioethanol is derived from corn, as a substitute for gasoline and biodiesel. Biogas is also a quite favorable and cost-effective technology. The last item is a novelty in the field of energy, because earlier organic wastes were simply rot and all the valuable methane was simply dissolved in the atmosphere. Currently, with the presence of modern equipment for the production of biogas one can not only provide heat and electricity, but also sell biogas at a high price (Franzle et al., 2012).

Solid Waste Management

Solid waste management is the collection, processing or disposal, transportation, and monitoring recycling process. The term usually refers to materials created directly or indirectly due to human activities and the control system is mainly aimed at reducing the harmful effects of wastes on human health and the environment, being also used for aesthetic reasons. Disposal of wastes is a way to conserve resources, which focuses on saving natural resources. Every year in the developed countries 1.3 billion tonnes of production and consumption wastes are formed (Vesilind et al., 1997). According to the European Environment Agency, about 3.5 tonnes of waste are accounted for one person per year. In Europe, 1 kg of consumption wastes is produced by one person per day, but the data varies from country to country (European Environmental Agency, 2013).

The concept of “waste management” is not simple tossing of used products into the trash and taking out the garbage truck to a landfill. If it were that easy, then many cities would not have faced problems with clogged streets and sewage waste, breeding of flies and rats and the deterioration of the urban environment on the whole. Waste management system is a complex problem that combines managerial, technical, financial, political, sociological and psychological aspects (Vesilind et al., 1997). Waste management usually requires the involvement of labor resources and close cooperation with public and commercial organizations. Organizational and financial problems, as well as errors in the selection and operation of the necessary equipment are the most common issues in the implementation of the system.

The choice of technology for the collection and disposal of wastes, as well as infrastructure development of waste management system affected by political decisions and companies competing with each other in the market is the task of environmental engineering facilities. It is a combination of engineering, social and legal issues to be solved (Franzle et al., 2012). Scientists currently developed social norms, which determine whether the proposed scheme of waste management is useful for this or that population or whether it becomes a short-term failed experiment. An important role in the selection of such systems for solid waste management, which would guarantee the support and participation of the public, is played by public awareness and support of the people (Vesilind et al., 1997). Specialists conduct researches for public interest and ability to use the waste management systems. That is why the development of effective waste management systems requires a detailed study of a large variety of issues and analysis of local conditions.

Residues themselves are also an important focus of attention. Typically, the waste consumption in industrialized countries is largely composed of paper, plastic, glass and metal packaging, and therefore has a low density. Such factors as the density of the waste are essential. For example, containers, and waste recycling facilities in the industrialized countries are intended for waste with a low density, and are not suitable or become unreliable if the incoming waste has greater weight owing to the greater density (Franzle et al., 2012). Considerable weight, the presence of sand in the waste, as well as the appearance of corrosion caused by excessive humidity can cause damage to the equipment.

Another important factor is the use of technologies for waste incineration. With high moisture content or inert materials, this type of waste cannot be applied since it is poorly susceptible to combustion. Furthermore, the extraction of waste for recycling and recycling itself help reduce the number of applicants for incineration of combustible waste in the composition components, such as paper and plastic.

These conclusions were the result of hard work of environmental engineering specialists. This knowledge helped reduce the number of waste deposit in developed countries by 30 percent. In addition, waste management is an educational facility teaching people to recycle and sort domestic wastes.

Water and Wastewater Treatment

Water recycling companies are a today’s priority in the development of low-waste and non-waste technology. Water is a valuable and most common resource. Reduction of water consumption and reduction of wastewater discharge after treatment in water bodies is the main task of the protection of water sources from contamination. As a result, environment engineering in this field is aimed at creating water and waster water cleaning facilities, as well as standards for using those (Franzle et al., 2012).

Treatment of industrial wastewater to the ceiling standards is carried out by selecting the optimum treatment technology, choosing high-performance engineering environmental equipment, and filtering elements and chemicals based on the results of qualitative analysis produced at the plant effluent. Engineers and scientists are working to provide water for drinking and agricultural use. They evaluate the water balance within the watershed and determine the available water supplies and water needed for different purposes in the watershed, observe seasonal cycles of water movement through the watershed, and develop a system to store, process, and convey water for various uses (Franzle et al., 2012). The water is treated to achieve high quality water for final use. In the case of drinking water supply, the initial liquid is treated with water to minimize the risk of transmission of infectious diseases, and create acceptable aqueous odor. Water distribution systems are designed and built in such a way to ensure that the appropriate pressure and volume of water meets the needs of the end user, such as domestic use, irrigation and fire extinguishing.

Sewage treatment is carried out in order to eliminate hazardous properties that may result in adverse effects for the environment (Vesilind et al., 1997). The use of different treatment technologies is aimed at neutralizing, decontamination or disposal of valuable components. Thus, the choice of technology and cleaning equipment depends primarily on the properties of wastewater and their deviations from the properties of natural waters. In other words, the choice of wastewater treatment depends on the harmful factors (HF), which are peculiar to waste water. Environmental engineering in this case deals with identification of HF and measures for their elimination (Franzle et al., 2012).

Harmful factors may include not only toxic substances such as oil, surfactants, heavy metal ions, but also such generalized indicators as aggressive media, general hardness (above the permissible), and the content of ammonium nitrogen, oxidation and others. The presence of the effluent harmful factors is determined based on the analysis of characteristics of water. Each HF can match a group of indicators, i.e. in the presence of water there can be determined HF characteristics and in the absence of water some offline and HF characteristics. In addition, the same rate of wastewater may indicate the presence of several HF (Vesilind et al., 1997).

Environmental engineering solutions led to the creation of a great number of wastewater treatment technologies. The procedure for wastewater treatment developed by environmental engineers consists of a main system cleaner for the removal of solid and liquid materials, secondary treatment system consisting of pool ventilation and followed by the formation of sludge or activated sludge system, secondary cleaner, tertiary biological nitrogen removal system, and the final disinfection process. System sludge basin/aeration basin removes the organic material by growing bacteria (activated sludge). Secondary cleaner removes the activated sludge from the water (Franzle et al., 2012). Tertiary system, though not always included due to costs, is more common for nitrogen and phosphorus removal and disinfection before discharge into the surface water or then the ocean.

Air Pollution Control

Scientists have developed a model of the dispersion of air pollution to assess the concentration of the pollutant in the receptor or the impact on air quality from vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions stack gas (Mitsch, 2012). To some extent, this area illustrates the desire to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced during the combustion of materials.

Scientists developed a system of characteristic features for pollutants. Depending on the combustible fuel (fossil fuels, biomass, household or industrial waste), there may be different types of pollutants to capture requiring special components. In addition, the selection of a particular concept as influenced by the presence of additives fuel gas cleaning (FGC), and equipment for waste disposal. Environmental engineering here also deals with the requirements of various national and international laws governing permissible emission standards (Franzle et al., 2012). Scientists not only take into account the existing norms and standards for air pollution in various countries, but also create new ones to establish the international laws and create modern technological facilities in environmental engineering.

Ecological Civil Engineering

Ecological housing is a new type of home commonly called environmental. Environmental home is narrowly called home designed and equipped for maximum energy optimization. Broadly speaking, ecological house should not only be energy saving. It must maintain a healthy microclimate by using environmentally friendly construction materials, as well as reduce the burden on the environment by using the latest technology (Vesilind et al., 1997).

Eco House is one of the most modern and innovative trends in environmental engineering, becoming more and more popular every day. It is an individual or a row house with land, a radical resource that is energy-efficient and low-waste, healthy and well-appointed as well as non-aggressive towards the environment. This is achieved mainly by using local building materials, stand-alone or small collective life support systems, rational home construction, and renewable energy sources. Requirements for Green Building in developed countries include the entire cycle process. The aim of this approach is to minimize the negative impact on the environment and human health in terms of the production of building materials, construction, operation and disposal of building construction waste.

The concept of “eco-housing” involves the house itself, outbuildings, garden, vegetable garden, forestry, water storage system and a place for rest. Green building consists of major components of economic activity that meets the principles of sustainable consumption and production. The world community has paid much attention to this topic, particularly in the field defined by the Commission on Sustainable Development of the United Nations in 2010 and 2011 (Vesilind et al., 1997).

Environmental Impact Assessment and Mitigation

The greater the environmental consequences of human activities, the sooner they should be eradicated. American and Soviet scientists made this conclusion as a result of combined research conducted in the late 70s (Wathern, 2002). In other words, humanity increasingly needs not an effective way to eliminate the negative consequences but rather a reliable mechanism to prevent them.

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) as a concept is the product of environmental engineering trends. This field deals not with the technological side of the problem, but with the legal one (Wathern, 2002). This is the set of requirements both for industrial and domestic facilities. It refers to any entrepreneur who organizes any production and should take into account environmental effects and consequences of this or that production.

The procedure involves a set of measures for the identification, accounting and analysis of the potential consequences of a negative nature that may affect the environment and occur as a result of economic enterprise and other activities. EIA allows managers to make informed and economic entities literate from an environmental point of view, management decisions, since it is able to predict the onset of potentially adverse effects on the part of businesses, competent to assess the environmental impacts that reduce the risks of their negative manifestations (Wathern, 2002).

The EIA procedure provides mandatory accounting of public opinion. It includes a comprehensive set of research that aims to study the full impact of the work on the environment and its components (Wathern, 2002). The environmental impact assessment means understanding of the identification, analysis and consideration of the study’s results and the impact of the proposed facility on the environment to make a decision about the possibility/impossibility of its implementation.

Practically, the EIA works as follows: scientists simulate the dispersion of air pollution to assess the concentration of the pollutant on the receptor or the impact on air quality in the whole vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions of gas. To some extent, this area illustrates the desire to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced during the combustion of materials. They apply scientific and technical methods to assess the likelihood of adverse effects on the quality of water, air, habitat, flora and fauna, agriculture, transport, social sphere, environment, noise, visual impact, and so on. If the obtained impact is greater than expected one, they develop mitigation measures to limit or prevent such impacts. An example of a mitigation measure can be an artificial creation of the swamp next to a natural order to reduce the level of waterlogging in the place, necessary for the construction of the road, if one cannot change the route construction (Wathern, 2002). In the United States, the practice of environmental assessment was formally launched on January 1, 1970, the date when the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was introduced. Since that time, more than 100 developing and developed countries have planned certain similar laws or accepted procedures used elsewhere. NEPA applies to all federal agencies in the United States (Wathern, 2002).

Conclusion

Environmental engineering is one of the fastest growing industries today, constantly introduced into most of the national economies. In addition, environmental technology is undergoing rapid development and growth. This complex of sciences is engaged in operation of environmental systems, quality control of raw materials, auxiliary materials and products. It participates in the development of proposals to improve the technology, ensuring environmental safety. It also plays an important role in the environmental review of project documentation, current technologies and industries. Depending on the specialization it uses certain tools and instruments for monitoring and analysis.

The contribution of this branch of science into today’s energy saving facilities cannot be underestimated. Thanks to this young science, the environmental protection today is a powerful engine only gathering pace.

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