The roles of an environmental engineer are many and important in making the environment conducive for the existence of humans and other species. These roles have a direct impact on the health of the public and therefore engineers must have high qualifications and good attributes in addition to the need for careful monitoring of their work. The kinds of work they undertake generally involve development of practical interventions by the application of scientific and mathematical principles. There is the code of ethics which define the required working standards and work relations. Adherence to this code is paramount for success and nobility of the profession. The qualifications touches on academic credentials and experience depending on the level at which one wants to enter the profession. For entry-level positions, the greatest focus is on academic qualifications while for senior positions, experience is highly considered in addition to education.
Engineering can be described as the art of applying the principles governing mathematical and scientific knowledge in addition to using experience, common sense and making appropriate judgment in developing remedies for technical problems. Environmental remediation is the process of restoring an environment which had been previously contaminated to a level that poses no threat to human health or other life forms. Issues of environmental engineering range from public health protection to aesthetics and also involve setting up of standards, regulations, legislation and certain guidelines to ensure environmental protection. Engineers in this area require various skills to deal with liquid wastes, solid wastes, and gaseous materials and affectively treat contaminated water (Joseph, 2009). The importance of having highly qualified engineers in the area of environmental management and conservation cannot be overemphasized. This report will discuss the roles, type of work, skills and ethical issues with respect to engineers in environmental remediation activities.
2.1 Role of Engineers in Environmental remediation and the type of work they do
The training of environmental engineers just like other engineers is based on the practical application of the principles behind science and mathematics. In order to use a particular technology for the good of the society, an environmental engineer is required to ensure that the design and operation of the technology is compatible with the environment. Another role is to solve environmental problems at the lowest cost possible while at the same time applying systematic approaches (Testa & Winegardner, 200). It is their role to carry out studies on harmful waste management and provide an evaluation of the hazard and a thorough analysis of the practical containment and treatment measures. They also develop regulations which ensure complete implementation of the proposed measures. They may carry out inspections on the municipal and industrial facilities and programs with the aim of assessing the levels of compliance with the laid out environmental regulations.
They work in collaboration with other specialists such as technicians dealing with hazardous wastes and environmental scientists in the activities pertaining to restoring the environment. Environmental remediation by environmental engineers is also large scale so that they devote their competences in addressing global environmental problems including global warming, depletion of the ozone layer, and water and air pollution (careers.stateuniversity.com, 2010). In addition, they analyze scientific data, conduct research on the proposed projects on environmental matters and also provide consultant services on financial and legal implications on environmental issues (careercornerstone.org, n.d).
2.2 Key Attributes and Skills
The general qualifications to be considered an experienced environmental professional are based on both academic and experience. The final ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency requires that for a person to qualify, one must be a holder of a current Professional Geologist’s or Professional Engineer’s license or registration from a U.S territory, state or tribe. In addition, relevant experience of three years is required. One can also qualify by having a Baccalaureate or higher degree in engineering or science from an accredited institution of higher learning and an equivalent of 5 years relevant full time experience. The meaning of relevant experience entails participation in the activities of assessing environmental sites which may include investigations and remediation, analysis of environmental conditions and evaluation of the conditions. Engineers are expected to remain in their fields and show efforts to gain more education or participate in other relevant activities that will build their career more (Gross, Gerrard, & Gerrard, 2006).
Professionals in feasibility studies, site investigation, endangerment assessment, and remedial design in sites of hazardous wastes require one to be familiar with CERCLA and RCRA in addition to a minimum BS degree in related field. Experience in computer modeling is an added advantage whereas for senior positions, professional registration and marketing ability is quite desirable. On the other hand, entry-level engineering positions require a BS in Engineering but a MS is preferred in Sanitary/Environmental Engineering. For senior level positions, professional registration or the ability to become registered in addition to experience in project management and thorough process knowledge is required. Another desirable attribute is good client relations and skills in marketing (Group, 2010).
2.3 Ethical Issues and how to tackle them in practice
Ethical issues arising in the area of environmental remediation revolve around how different activities will affect the existence of humans and other species in the environment. For instance, initiation of projects must be carried out after a wide consultation with their clients and peers so that the outcome fulfills the anticipated wellbeing of inhabitants in an area (Trantolo & Wise, 1994). This requires that engineers give the welfare, safety and health of the community the first priority. To gain trust of community, engineers are expected to act in dignity, honesty and integrity in their profession. To avoid environmental disasters, engineers are expected to work within the limits of their experience and qualifications. Therefore, they have to demonstrate truthfulness when submitting their qualifications. On the same note, if engineers are assigned a task by their clients or employers which they cannot handle, they are supposed to be prudent and notify their clients or employers and make recommendations on how to obtain more advice (engineersaustralia.org.au, 2000).
A society without engineers is bound to be overwhelmed by difficult environmental, economic and social challenges. This is because engineers play important roles which are indispensable for the well being of the society. To ensure that environmental disasters are prevented, environmental engineers should acquire high levels of skills, experience and academic qualifications in addition to ensuring transparency, honesty and integrity in their profession. Lack of adherence to the code of ethics nullifies this noble profession and therefore it is upon the regulating authorities to ensure the nobility of this profession. Collaborative approach to issues of environmental restoration is critical in ensuring integration of skills to achieve desirable outcomes.
careercornerstone.org. (n.d). Environmental Engineering Overview. Retrieved July 19, 2010, from http://www.careercornerstone.org/pdf/env/enveng.pdf
careers.stateuniversity.com. (2010). Environmental Engineer Job Description, Career as an Environmental Engineer, Salary, Employment – Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job. Retrieved July 19, 2010, from http://careers.stateuniversity.com/pages/52/Environmental-Engineer.html
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Gross, J. M., Gerrard, M. B., & Gerrard, M. (2006). Amending CERCLA: the post-SARA amendments to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, And Liability Act. New York: American Bar Association.
Group, C. C. (2010, July 20). US Black Engineer & IT. US Black Engineer & IT , pp. 134-135.
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Testa, S. M., & Winegardner, D. L. (200). Restoration of contaminated aquifers: petroleum hydrocarbons and organic compounds. New York: CRC Press.
Trantolo, D. J., & Wise, D. L. (1994). Remediation of hazardous waste contaminated soils. New York: CRC Press.