Environmental Engineering Technicians
Environmental engineering technicians engineering technicians carry out the plans that environmental engineers develop.
Environmental engineering technicians typically do the following:
- Set up, test, operate, and modify equipment for preventing or cleaning up environmental pollution
- Maintain project records and computer program files
- Conduct pollution surveys, collecting and analyzing samples such as air and ground water
- Perform indoor and outdoor environmental quality work
- Work to mitigate sources of environmental pollution
- Review technical documents to ensure completeness and conformance to requirements
- Review work plans to schedule activities
- Arrange for the disposal of lead, asbestos, and other hazardous materials
In laboratories, environmental engineering technicians record observations, test results, and document photographs. To keep the laboratory supplied, they also may get product information, identify vendors and suppliers, and order materials and equipment.
Environmental engineering technicians also help environmental engineers develop devices for cleaning up environmental pollution. They also inspect facilities for compliance with the regulations that govern substances such as asbestos, lead, and wastewater.
Hazardous Materials Removal Workers
Hazardous materials (hazmat) removal workers identify and dispose of asbestos, radioactive and nuclear waste, arsenic, lead, and other hazardous materials. They also clean up materials that are flammable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic.
Hazmat removal workers typically do the following:
- Comply with safety procedures and federal laws regarding waste disposal
- Construct scaffolding or build containment areas before cleaning up
- Remove or clean up hazardous materials that are found or spilled
- Clean contaminated equipment for reuse
- Operate equipment that removes and stores waste materials
- Keep records of cleanup activities
Hazmat removal workers clean up materials that are harmful to people and the environment. The work they do depends on the substances they are cleaning. Removing lead and asbestos is different from cleaning up radiation contamination and toxic spills. Differences also can relate to why these workers have been called in to clean a site. For example, cleaning up a fuel spill from a train derailment is more urgent than removing lead paint from a bridge.
The following are types of hazmat removal workers:
Asbestos abatement workers and lead abatement workers remove asbestos and lead from buildings that are going to be fixed up or taken down. Most of this work is in older buildings that were originally built with asbestos insulation and lead-based paints—both of which are now banned from being used in newer buildings and must be removed from older ones.
Until the 1970s, asbestos was often used in buildings for fireproofing, insulation, and other uses. However, asbestos particles can cause deadly lung diseases. Similarly, until the 1970s, lead was commonly used in paint, pipes, and plumbing fixtures. Inhaling lead dust or ingesting chips of lead-based paint can cause serious health problems, though, especially in children.
Lead abatement workers use chemicals and may need to know how to operate sandblasters, high-pressure water sprayers, and other common tools.
Decommissioning and decontamination workers remove and treat radioactive materials generated by nuclear facilities and powerplants. They break down contaminated items such as “gloveboxes,” which are used to process radioactive materials. When a facility is being closed or decommissioned (taken out of service), these workers clean the facility and decontaminate it from radioactive materials.
Decontamination technicians do tasks similar to those of janitors and cleaners, but the items and areas they clean are radioactive. Some of these jobs are now being done by robots controlled by people away from the contamination site. Increasingly, many of these remote devices automatically monitor and survey floors and walls for contamination.
Emergency and disaster response workers must work quickly to clean up hazardous materials after train and trucking accidents. Immediate, thorough cleanups help to control and prevent more damage to accident or disaster sites.
Radiation-protection technicians use radiation survey meters and other remote devices to locate and assess the hazard associated with radiated materials, operate high-pressure cleaning equipment for decontamination, and package radioactive materials for moving or disposing.
Treatment, storage, and disposal workers transport and prepare materials for treatment, storage, or disposal. To ensure proper treatment of materials, workers must follow laws enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). At incinerator facilities, treatment, storage, and disposal workers move materials from the customer or service center to the incinerator. At landfills, they organize and track the location of items in the landfill and may help change the state of a material from liquid to solid to prepare it to be stored. These workers typically operate heavy machinery, such as forklifts, earthmoving machinery, and large trucks and rigs.
Mold remediation makes up a small segment of hazardous materials removal work. Although mold is present in almost all structures and is not usually defined as a hazardous material, some mold—especially the types that cause allergic reactions—can infest a building to such a degree that extensive efforts must be taken to remove it safely.