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The Practice of Environmental & Engineering Geology
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The Practice of Environmental and Engineering Geology

Environmental and engineering geology is the application of the practice of geology to engineering, environmental concerns, and the public health, safety and welfare. Environmental and engineering geologists apply geologic data, techniques, and principles to the study of:
 
a) naturally occurring rock and soil materials;
b) surface and subsurface fluids; and
c) the interaction of introduced materials and processes with the geologic environment.

 

Such applications allow geologists to evaluate geologic factors that affect the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of engineering structures (fixed works) and develop, protect, and remediate groundwater and surface-water resources. Environmental and engineering geologists utilize specialized training and experience to provide quantitative geologic information and recommendations, as well as judgmental interpretations and recommendations. In recent decades the scope of engineering geology has grown beyond its original, close connection to civil engineering, and environmental geology has become a significant practice.

Environmental and engineering geologists now work with and for land-use planners, environmental specialists, architects, engineers, public agencies, public policy makers, and property owners to provide geologic information on which they base decisions. Typical activities of environmental and engineering geologists include:

  1. Investigate foundations for all types of major structures, such as dams, bridges, power plants, pumping plants, airports, large buildings, and towers
  2.  Evaluate geologic conditions along routes for tunnels, pipelines, canals, railways, and highways.
  3. Explore and develop sources of rock, soil and sediment for use as construction materials.
  4. Evaluate siting, design, impact mitigation, reclamation, and resource characterization for aggregate mines and rock quarries.
  5. Investigate and develop surface and groundwater resources; manage groundwater basins to protect and remediate groundwater and surface-water resources that may be subject to degradation due to exposure of chemical degradation.
  6. Assess and mitigate radon, asbestos, and other naturally occurring hazardous substances.
  7. Evaluate geologic hazards such as landslides, faults and earthquakes, subsidence, expansive and collapsible soils, expansive bedrock, cavernous rock, and liquefaction.
  8. Evaluate geologic conditions, including groundwater, that may affect residential, commercial, and industrial land use and development.
  9. Evaluate geologic factors that affect construction, such as slope stability, dewatering, sub drains, grouting considerations, and excavatability.
  10. Evaluate geologic conditions related to safe siting and geologic design for waste management and disposal facilities, and assist in establishing the basis for remedial actions for mitigation of related environmental threats from unengineered and uncontrolled waste disposal.
  11. Characterize and assess geology and hydrology, and potential environmental impacts related to the geologic and hydrologic environment for environmental impact reports and permit applications.
  12. Participate in land-use planning, reclaiming mined land, planning timber harvests, reviewing insurance claims, and assisting in forensic investigations.

The environmental and engineering geologist, in cooperation with the civil engineer, bears an important share of the responsibility for the public health, safety, and welfare related to engineering works that may be affected by geologic factors. The engineering profession has distinctively and effectively met its responsibility to the public through state registration laws throughout the United States. The Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists actively supports state registration or licensure of geologists and has published a Suggested Geologists Practice Act to assist in achieving professional registration or licensure for geologists. 

The Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists is devoted to developing a spirit of professional responsibility on the part of engineering geologists, environmental geologists, and hydrogeologists. One goal of the association is to focus attention on environmental and engineering geology and its expanding role. The association seeks to maintain high professional standards and enhance awareness of the responsibility of the environmental and engineering geologist to the public in general.

In the final analysis, environmental and engineering geology is applied geology for people who want to modify the geologic environment for their use and convenience while mitigating impacts, want to live in harmony with it, and restore previous impacts to the geologic and hydrologic environment. Environmental and engineering geologists help people understand their geologic and hydrologic environment, accommodate it, and correct their geo-environmental mistakes.

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