Environmental engineer

What they do

Environmental engineers identify, implement and manage measures to protect and restore the natural environment from the effects of human activity. They evaluate the potential environmental impact that new engineering or construction projects may have, and suggest ways in which the impact can be minimised and/or rehabilitated at the end of the project. Where there has been significant environmental damage, environmental engineers assess the site, and determine the best method to remove any pollution and rehabilitate the area. Some environmental engineers design and operate waste management systems, such as water treatment plants.

Working conditions

Environmental engineers spend time working in offices, laboratories and in the field, at locations such as construction sites, mines, waste treatment facilities and in polluted environments. In Western Australia, many environmental engineers find work in the mining industry, managing pollution control systems and rehabilitating used mine sites. When working in the field they work in most weather conditions. To minimise their risk of exposure to harmful chemicals and other pollutants, environmental engineers must wear protective clothing, which may include overalls, masks, gloves and safety glasses.

Tools and technologies

Environmental engineers use a wide range of equipment, depending on the particular needs of each site they work on. When conducting field assessments they use scientific and laboratory equipment to collect air, water and soil samples, testing them for the presence and concentration of pollutants. A varied and ever increasing range of tools and technologies are used for rehabilitation, ranging from planting specially selected tree species, to more advanced technologies, such as ultrasound, which is used to breakdown pollutants into less harmful compounds. In an office environment, they use computers to process and analyse data and produce reports.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become an environmental engineer, you usually need to study a degree in engineering, majoring in environmental engineering or a related field. You may need to complete postgraduate study to specialise in environmental engineering. 
Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.