About Environmental Engineering
[Original Abbey Mills Pumping Station]
The Original Abbey Mills Pumping Station in London.
Environmental engineering is the application of science and engineering principles to improve the environment (air, water, and/or land resources), to provide healthy water, air, and land for human habitation and for other organisms, and to remediate polluted sites. Environmental engineering involves water and air pollution control, recycling, waste disposal, and public health issues as well as a knowledge of environmental engineering law. It also includes studies on the environmental impact of proposed construction projects. The main task of environmental engineering is to protect public health by protecting (from further degradation), preserving (the present condition of), and enhancing the environment.
Humans have always been interested in improving the quality of their environment with artificial construction. Many ancient cultures engineered water supply and sewage systems for their cities or farming practices. The modern era environmental engineering started in the mid 19th century when Joseph Bazalgette designed the first major sewage system in industrialized London. As the society grew and technologies advanced, more and more seemingly beneficial actions resulted in detrimental impacts on the environment. Conservation movements and laws are thus established to restrict public actions that would harm the environment.
As an academic discipline, environmental engineering evolved from the chemical and civil branches of engineering. Though Purdue University established its major in 1943, many other programs emerged only in the late 1960s and 1970s. The University of Delaware, as a matter of interest, established its program as recently as 1995. As the environmental movement gained a great deal of momentum during the 1970s, and public awareness of environmental problems increased tremendously at this time. Students demanded courses that focused on solving these problems, so courses with an environmental theme became very popular. Eventually, these classes were merged into academic minors, and following that, many institutions created majors in various areas of environmental studies, including engineering.