Students are introduced to the fundamentals of environmental engineering as well as the global air, land and water quality concerns facing today's environmental engineers. After a lesson and activity to introduce environmental engineering, students learn more about water chemistry aspects of environmental engineering. Specifically, they focus on groundwater contamination and remediation, including sources of contamination, adverse health effects of contaminated drinking water, and current and new remediation techniques. Several lab activities provide hands-on experiences with topics relevant to environmental engineering concerns and technologies, including removal efficiencies of activated carbon in water filtration, measuring pH, chromatography as a physical separation method, density and miscibility.
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High school environmental science students at Central High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania search for contaminated water wells in a classroom simulation to see if a pattern of leukemia cases might be related to groundwater contamination.Students exploration is based on A Civil Action, a nonfiction account of a water contamination case in Woburn, Massachusetts. Using a map of the area and a budget of $30,000, students make decisions about which wells to test and record data about groundwater contamination based on a simulated test for tricholoroethylene (TCE). Analyzing data from the entire class, students identify two potential point sources and discuss whether or not their evidence supports a connection to a cluster of leukemia cases in the area.
Students are presented with examples of the types of problems that environmental engineers solve, specifically focusing on water quality issues. Topics include the importance of clean water, the scarcity of fresh water, tap water contamination sources, and ways environmental engineers treat contaminated water.
Students measure the effectiveness of water filters in purifying contaminated water. They prepare test water by creating different concentrations of bleach (chlorine-contaminated) water. After passing the contaminated water through commercially available Brita® water filters designed to purify drinking water, students determine the chlorine concentration of the purified water using chlorine test strips and measure the adsorption of chlorine onto activated carbon over time. They graph and analyze their results to determine the effectiveness of the filters. The household active carbon filters used are one example of engineer-designed water purification systems.