CE 321 Introduction to Environmental Engineering and Science

Weekly schedule


Until the last 60 or so years, the environmental impacts of the great technological advances of the industrial age were largely unknown. Since the 1950s, a growing awareness of our capacity to damage our planet has changed our approach to one where clean air and water is now of prime importance to the public, and a multitude of regulations are in place to protect human health and natural resources. In recent years, the realization that resources on earth are finite and that global climate is changing has brought consideration of “sustainability” into the mainstream (in fact, it is now one of ASCE’s three strategic priorities). Working with other scientists, engineers, and policy-makers, environmental engineers seek practical solutions to a variety of problems related to water supply and treatment, environmental pollution, and sustainability. Water and environmental issues have always been an integral part of civil engineering- in fact, the founders of ASCE in 1852 had just completed work on the Croton Aqueduct, which delivered water to New York City’s first centralized drinking water distribution system.

In this course we will identify and analyze a variety of environmental engineering problems and describe some solutions. Because of the introductory and interdisciplinary nature of the course, we will cover the basics of a wide range of topics, including sustainability, hydrology, ecology, environmental chemistry and chemical analyses, water and wastewater treatment processes, waste management methods, and stream and groundwater pollution. Weekly laboratories will include field sampling and laboratory analyses and local field trips. We will take a watershed approach to looking at these interconnected topics, focusing our labs on the Bushkill Creek watershed adjacent to campus. Students in CE 321 and three other environmentally-focused classes across campus will work in teams of three on a multidisciplinary semester project culminating in a poster presentation. The theme for Fall 2015 is “Human Health and the Environment”.

Physician John Snow is famous for an early act of environmental engineering and gets much credit for discovering the link between water and diseases like cholera, at a time when the establishment believed that bad air was the problem. See his map below and read The Ghost Map for the whole tale.

A portion of Snow's famous map of cholera cases in London in 1854.

A portion of Snow’s famous map of cholera cases in London in 1854.

ASCE’s The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025
(source: http://www.asce.org/vision2025/)

Entrusted by society to create a sustainable world and enhance the global quality of life, civil engineers serve competently, collaboratively, and ethically as master:
– planners, designers, constructors, and operators of society’s economic and social engine — the built environment;
stewards of the natural environment and its resources;
– innovators and integrators of ideas and technology across the public, private, and academic sectors;
– managers of risk and uncertainty caused by natural events, accidents, and other threats; and
– leaders in discussions and decisions shaping public environmental and infrastructure policy.