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Teaching Environmental Engineering Students Ethics, Law And Policy

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.942.1 - 6.942.8

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John Tharakan

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


Teaching Environmental Engineering Students Ethics, Law and Policy

John Tharakan

Department of Chemical Engineering, Howard University, Washington, DC 20059


Most conventional introductory courses on environmental engineering are offered as core or electives courses within chemical or civil engineering departments, with the primary focus usually being on the description and analysis of pollutant generation and transport in water, air, and soil. There is a concomitant discussion and analysis of the physical, chemical and biological treatment technologies that have been developed for pollution remediation and control. Scant attention, however, is paid to the social, political, economic, and technological, in short total, environment within which environmental engineering principles and practices, mediated by legal and regulatory forces, gets implemented. In this paper, I discuss the introduction of ethics, environmental policy and environmental regulatory issues into a regular introductory environmental engineering course. This is accomplished by beginning the course with a discussion of environmental ethics, followed by a general introduction to concepts in environmental law, focusing on what have become part of accepted legal practice, or have become evolving legal issues. Within the context of environmental regulations and the evolution of environmental laws, the broad range of situations that fall under the wide brushstroke of environmental justice are reviewed, analyzed and discussed. For engineering students, this is an exciting introduction to the social context of the science and engineering of the environment. Course materials include contemporary and historical readings followed by discussion and analysis, and also include general surveys of data, where applicable and available. Some specific case studies are included as well, time permitting. The material is covered in lecture/discussion mode, which permits the incorporation of brief introductions to environmental technologies and options, many suggested by the students themselves. With such a contextualization of environmental engineering practice, students are better primed for, and more receptive to, an introduction to the principles and technologies of environmental engineering.

I. Introduction

As awareness of the importance of environmental issues grows, and as students begin to demand Proceedings of the 2001 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Tharakan, J. (2001, June), Teaching Environmental Engineering Students Ethics, Law And Policy Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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