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1. Introduction
Lecture objectives

After completing this lecture, students will be able to;

 Define environment, engineering and environmental engineering;
 Identify components of natural environment;
 Understand Environmental resources;
 Describe environmental problems;
 Units and measurements used in environmental engineering.

1.1. Basic definitions

1.1.1. Environment
The word Environment is derived from the French word “Environ” which means “surrounding”.
Our surrounding includes biotic factors like human beings, Plants, animals, microbes, etc. and
abiotic factors such as light, air, water, soil, noise etc. Environment is a complex of many
variables, which surrounds man as well as the living organisms. Environment includes water, air
and land and the interrelationships which exist among and between water, air and land and
human beings and other living creatures such as plants, animals and microorganisms.

1.1.2. Engineering
Engineering is a profession that applies mathematics and science to utilize the properties of
matter and sources of energy to create useful structures, machines, products, systems, and
processes for the benefit of societies.

Engineers improve the state of the world, amplify human capability and make people's lives safer
and easier. Engineering is concerned with the various structures and systems employed in
solving environmental pollution problems.
1.1.3. Environmental Engineering
Because of the diversity of environmental problems and the large number of different solutions,
there are many different types of engineers involved. This profession covers several major
disciplines including civil engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, public
health, ecology, chemistry, and meteorology. Environmental engineering involves waste water
management and air pollution control, recycling, waste disposal, radiation protection, industrial
hygiene, environmental sustainability, and public health issues. It also includes studies on the
environmental impact of proposed construction projects.

Environmental engineering is the integration of science and engineering principles to improve

the natural environment, to provide healthy water, air, and land for human habitation and for
other organisms, and to remediate polluted sites.

1.2. Components of Environment

The environment consists broadly of two components; non-living or physical and living or

biological. The physical environments are atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere is
a biological environment.

1.2.1. Atmosphere
The atmosphere is the protective blanket of gases (composed of 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen,
and 1% other gases) which is surrounding the earth. It protects the earth from dangerous UV
radiations coming from the sun. Atmospheric gases absorb IR solar radiations and reflect part of
it so that the temperature of the earth is controlled. The other advantages of atmosphere are;

 It acts as a source for CO2 for plant photosynthesis and O2 for respiration.
 It acts as a source for nitrogen for nitrogen fixing bacteria and ammonia producing plants.
 It transports water from ocean to land.

The layers of the earth’s atmosphere on the basis of temperature and other related phenomenon
are troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere and thermosphere. The atmospheric layers are
illustrated as follow.
I. The Troposphere:
Troposphere is the layer of air closest to the earth's surface and the level that most of
conventional aviation activities take place. It contains about 75% of atmospheric mass and is the
abodes of weather (clouds, storms, water vapor and convection motion). Troposphere
atmospheric layer goes up to 11 km from the earth surface. In this region the air is very warm on
the earth surface and the temperature, air density and air pressure gradually decreases with
increase in altitude. The rate of uniform decrease in temperature is –0.65°C/100m to a minimum
of -50 °C to -60 °C and is called normal lapse rate. The top of the troposphere at which this
minimum temperature occurred is known as tropopause. The in troposphere the average global
temperature is about 17 °C.

II. The Stratosphere

The stratosphere is the second layer of the earth’s atmosphere and it extends up to a mean
altitude of 50km. In this layer about 25% of atmospheric mass is formed. Only jet airplanes can
fly in the thin air of the stratosphere. In the Earth’s stratosphere, the temperature increases with
altitude due to the absorption of ultraviolet radiation (UV) by ozone molecule. About 90% of the
ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere is found in the stratosphere region. The top layer of stratosphere
is called stratopause which has the highest temperature of 0°C.

Ozone is concentrated around an altitude of 25 kilometers. Ozone and oxygen molecules in the
stratosphere absorb ultraviolet light from the Sun, providing a shield that prevents this radiation
from passing to the Earth’s surface. While both oxygen and ozone together absorb 95 to 99.9%
of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation, only ozone effectively absorbs the most energetic ultraviolet
light, known as UV-C and UV-B. In the troposphere, the ground-level or “bad” ozone is an air
pollutant that damages human health, vegetation, and many common materials.

III. The Mesosphere:

Mesosphere is the third layer (going up) of the earth’s atmosphere between 50 to 80 km altitudes.
In mesospheric zone less than 1% of atmospheric mass is found. In the Earth’s mesosphere, the
temperature decreases with increase in altitude and reaches its coldest temperature of around -
90°C. This is due to low levels of ultra-violet species i.e., ozone. The end of this temperature
profile (0- (-90°C)) occurs at mesopause which is the top bounding layer of mesosphere. Here,
the air is too thin for jets to fly in and only rockets can fly through it.
IV. The Thermosphere:
The thermosphere is the fourth and highest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere and is located above
the mesosphere. It extends from mesopause (80km altitude) to an altitude range of 500-1000km.
In this layer, the temperature increases with altitude and reaches up to 1200°C. The oxygen and
nitric oxide molecules in this zone contribute to the rising temperature by absorbing intense solar
radiation. The high temperatures in the thermosphere can cause molecules to ionize. This is why
an ionosphere and thermosphere can overlap. Ionosphere is located at 500-700km within the
thermosphere and it contains electrically charged gas particles. The highest point of
thermosphere is thermopause, and it is the lowest point of the exosphere, exobase.
Exosphere: The outermost layer of the atmosphere, exosphere extends from thermospause into
the space. This layer is mainly made up of hydrogen and helium atoms.

1.2.2. Hydrosphere
The hydrosphere is a collective term given to all different forms of water. It includes all types of
water resources such as oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, streams, reservoirs, glaciers and ground
waters. Ocean water source covers 99% of the total available water. Only 1 % of the total water
supply is available as fresh water in the form of rivers, lakes, streams and ground water for
human consumption and other uses.

Water helps in carrying out many life activities in the living things. Water is essential for plant
photosynthesis and its growth as it dissolves many minerals to be absorbed by the roots of the
plants. Water also controls earth’s climate, and it is a reservoir of fossil fuels, minerals and salts.
Water is transferred from one forms or reservoir to another (atmosphere, land and plants) by a
process known as water cycle.

1.2.3. Lithosphere
The earth is divided in to layers (such as crust, upper mantle, lower mantle, outer core, and inner
core). The lithosphere consists of upper mantle and the crust. The crust is the earth’s outer skin
that is accessible to human. The crust consists of rocks and soil of which the latter is the
important part of lithosphere.
The resulting primitive soil is suitable for the growth of plants after death and decay, plant debris
returns to soil. The mineral component of soil comes from the parent rocks by weathering
processes while the organic component is due to plant biomass as well as populations of bacteria,
fungi and insects (earthworms). A typical soil, suitable for agriculture, contains about 5 per cent
organic matter and 95 per cent inorganic matter. Soil plays an important role as it produces food
for man and animals. Good soil and good agriculture are valuable assets for a nation.

1.2.4. Biosphere
The biosphere refers to the realm of living organisms and their interactions with the
environment: atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere. The biosphere is very large and complex
and is divided into smaller units called ecosystems. Plants, animals and microorganisms which
live in a definite zone along with physical factors such as soil, water and air constitute an
ecosystem. Within each ecosystems there are dynamic inter relationships between living forms
and their physical environment. These inter relationships manifest as natural cycles, (hydrologic
cycle, oxygen cycle, nitrogen cycle, phosphorous cycle and sulphur cycle).

In general, the biosphere is closely related to energy flows in the environment and water
chemistry. Broadly speaking, the biosphere consists of the earth’s crust, hydrosphere,
atmosphere and various living species (micro-organisms to man) which exist in the zone 600
metres above earth’s surface and 10,000 metres below sea level.

1.3. Environmental problems

An environmental problem arises whenever there is a change in the quality or quantity of any
environmental factor which directly or indirectly affects the health and well-being of man in an
adverse manner. Some of the environmental problems which are critical at the present time are:

1.3.1. Climatic change

Climate change is caused by alterations of the atmospheric content of carbon dioxide,
atmospheric turbidity (aerosol content), mean global cloudiness, the earth's surface
(deforestation, erosion, extension of arid or desert land, irrigation, urbanization, and the creation
of artificial lakes, the composition of the stratosphere, and the amount of heat generated by
man's activities. Climate change adversely affects the standard of living through, for example
reduced crop productivity, and increased energy consumption, etc.
1.3.2. Eutrophication of waters
Both natural and man-made lakes have suffered from eutrophication and its effects.
Eutrophication is the term used to describe the availability of excess nutrients (nitrogen and
phosphorus compounds and other agricultural fertilizers) in water bodies result for the growth of
blooms of algae and plants. Algae and plants themselves deplete the oxygen amount. Depleted
oxygen levels in turn may lead to fish kills and a range of other effects of reducing biodiversity.
The average oxygen content of some fresh water bodies has decreased very markedly in historic

1.3.3. Global Warming

Global warming the general increase in the earth’s average temperature caused by the presence
of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The burning of these fuels produces gases like carbon
dioxide, methane and nitrous oxides which lead to global warming. Deforestation is also leading
to warmer temperatures. The hazard of global warming is continuously causing major damage to
the Earth's environment.

1.3.4. Acid Rain

It has been known since that the high concentrations of HNO3 and H2SO4 in rain are due to the
reaction of water molecules and acidic oxides (NOx and SO2) emitted by fossil fuel combustion.
In areas where the biosphere is sensitive to acid rain, there has been ample evidence of the
negative effects of acid rain on freshwater ecosystems. Elevated acidity is directly harmful to
plants, aquatic animals and infrastructure.

1.3.5. Changes in biological productivity

It is caused by contamination of toxic substances including radionuclides. The most toxic
substances are heavy metals (lead, mercury and cadmium), organochlorine compounds (DDT, its
degradation products and metabolites, polychlorinated biphenyls) and possibly petroleum
products. Contamination occurs in all media: air, land, water and biota.
Of particular importance, however, are those parts of the biosphere where the substances show
long residence times, namely in soils and sea water. The use of the biosphere as a recipient for
toxic and other waste products will inevitably affect animal and plant species, their growth and
Every kind of pollutant (toxic substance) in some measure affects:
 Ecosystem structure and productivity
 The numbers and distribution ranges of organisms and the structure of plant and animal
communities by decreasing the species diversity or extinctions of species.
 Agricultural productivity.
 Man's health directly or by passage and accumulation through food chains.
1.4. Units of Measurement
In the study of environmental engineering, it is common to encounter both extremely large
quantities and extremely small ones. Concentrations of substances dissolved in water (liquid) are
usually expressed in terms of mass or number per unit volume of mixture. Most often the units
are milligrams (mg), micrograms (mg), or moles (mol) of substance per liter (L) of mixture. At
times, they may be expressed in grams per cubic meter (g/m3). Alternatively, concentrations in
liquids are expressed as mass of substance per mass of mixture, with the most common units
being parts per million (ppm) or parts per billion (ppb). It can be expressed as; 1 mg/L = 1 g/m3
= 1 ppm (by weight) and 1µg/L = 1 mg/m3 = 1 ppb (by weight).

Example 1:
The fluoride concentration in drinking water may be increased to help prevent tooth decay by
adding sodium fluoride; however, if too much fluoride is added, it can cause discoloring
(mottling) of the teeth. The optimum dose of fluoride in drinking water is about 0.053 mM
(millimole/liter). If sodium fluoride (NaF) is purchased in 25 kgbags, how many gallons of
drinking water would a bag treat? (Assume there is no fluoride already in the water.)

Note that the mass in the bag is the sum of the mass of the sodium and the mass of the fluoride in
the compound. The atomic weight of sodium is 23.0, and fluoride is 19.0, so the molecular
weight of NaF is 42.0. The ratio of sodium to fluoride atoms in NaF is 1:1. Therefore, the mass
of fluoride in the bag is;

Converting the molar concentration to a mass concentration, the optimum concentration of

fluoride in water is
The mass concentration of a substance in a fluid is generically; where, m is the mass of the

substance and V is the volume of the fluid. And the results of the two calculations above, the
volume of water that can be treated is;

For most air pollution work, it is customary to express pollutant concentrations in volumetric
terms. For example, the concentration of a gaseous pollutant in parts per million (ppm) is the
volume of pollutant per million volumes of the air mixture:

( )

The relationship between ppmv and mg/m3 depends on the pressure, temperature, and molecular
weight of the pollutant. The ideal gas law helps us establish that relationship:

P V = n R T; Where, P= absolute pressure

V= volume (m3)
n= mass (mol)
R= ideal gas constant, 0.082056 L.atm.K-1.mol-1
T= Absolute temperature (K), T(K)= 273.15+oC
1 mole of an ideal gas at 25oC and 1atm occupies a volume of 22.414 L. Similarly, at 25oC and 1
atm, the volume of air is 24.465 L. For these conditions, the equation to convert from
concentration in milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) to concentration in parts per million is as

( ) ( )

Example 2
The molecular weight of benzene is 78. If the concentration of benzene in air is 10 mg/m3, what
is concentration of benzene in air in ppmv at 25°C and 1atm?
Bu using the above formula and rearranging, the following can be obtained.

( )

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