Explore environmental careers.
Environmental engineers plan, design, and supervise a variety of industrial components and processes and may be found working in a number of industries, including pulp and paper, oil and gas, and manufacturing. Environmental engineers may also choose to specialize in a specific area, for example air or water quality or solid and hazardous waste management. Environmental engineers are often also involved in regulatory procedures that review facilities to ensure they are complying with environmental policies and guidelines.
At a glanceImagine standing at the window of a plush boardroom looking out over a busy pulp and paper mill. On the agenda for today’s meeting is a discussion of upgrade plans for the mill, which is nearly 40 years old and in need of another retrofit. You are an environmental engineer and you have been brought into this project to look at how the mill is disposing of its effluent. One of the by-products of the mill’s manufacturing process is effluent water that is too contaminated to be put into the municipal sewer system or discharged into local rivers. Your job is to examine this effluent and design a system to treat and disinfect the water before it can be discharged to the receiving body. As an environmental engineer, you specialize in responding to environmental problems such as effluent disposal and waste management. Your first task will be to test the mill’s effluent to determine exactly what is in the water. You look for chemical contaminants that are used in processing pulp and manufacturing paper, such as bleach. You will also test for biological oxygen demand (BOD), total suspended solids (TSS), and turbidity. Once you know the types and concentrations of contaminants in the effluent, you can begin to design a treatment system. You will incorporate a number of methods, for example filtration and ozone disinfection, to remove these toxic contaminants. Your goal is to design a system that will treat the mill’s effluent water so that it is clean enough to flow straight into the local river without any harmful effects.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as an environmental engineer:
- Assess industrial sites to determine if they satisfy environmental quality criteria.
- Design waste-treatment and pollution-control plans.
- Design sampling protocols for industrial facilities.
- Promote integrated waste-management planning programs.
- Monitor sites and procedures to confirm that private and public operations are in compliance with environmental regulations.
- Design safe solid waste transfer and disposal sites, water distribution and treatment systems, and wastewater collection and treatment systems.
- Recommend procedures to clean up sites that have been contaminated with harmful materials.
- Advise governments or companies of steps necessary to clean up sites and design cost-effective procedures for site remediation.
- Evaluate the current system performance and incorporate innovations or develop new technologies to enhance environmental protection
- Write and evaluate environmental impact statements
Work environmentFor most environmental engineers an equal amount of time is spent indoors and outdoors. They work in a variety of locations including, but not limited to: In the office:
- Doing paperwork, analyzing data, and preparing reports
- Drafting plans and models
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, stakeholders, and government departments presenting assessment findings and recommendations for improvement and abatement strategies
- Researching policies and procedures, and consulting with other environmental professionals for an interdisciplinary approach to solutions
- Touring and inspecting sites
- Supervising installations and auditing and calibrating equipment used for air, water, or soil sampling
- Testing designs and recommended changes
- Taking measurements and recording data and observations
- Investigating environmentally related complaints and recording findings
Where to workThere are a number of places environmental engineers can find employment. They include:
- Environmental engineering consulting firms
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
- Colleges, universities, and research institutes
- Property management companies
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as an environmental engineer, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Environmental Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Chemical Engineering