Environmental Technology: A Worthy Challenge – Part II

February 21, 2013

We’ve arrived at the midway point of Winter Semester 2013 at CNA, and midterms are underway. There are bursts of intense work throughout, but compared to the turbulent crashing seas of last fall, this semester is like a ship in slightly calmer waters. The rising snowbanks may just be causing hibernation instincts to kick in, but I don’t feel the same pressure as last semester.

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The semester emphasizes group work and writing within most of its courses. After a week-long March break, there’s a water quality conference in Gander to look forward to. Later that month, we will be taking certification short courses to enhance our qualifications.

Below are the course descriptions from the online College of the North Atlantic Academic Calendar, and my own experience with them so far.

CH3700: Organic Chemistry (Environmental Chemistry III)

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Separation of benzoic acid from naphthalene. Notice the layers.

This is the second of two courses dealing with the chemical interactions which occur in natural environments. The focus is on air and soil chemistry, and emphasis is placed on Organic Chemistry. The fundamental aspects of nomenclature, structure, properties, and reactions of organic compounds are discussed and applied to studying the sources and toxicity of environmentally important organic compounds.

The learning mantra for this course basically boils down to read, write and memorize, read, write and memorize. Calculators are not required. Know your carbons and know how to count. From alkanes to thioethers, each section is a building block on the last. As I prepare for next week’s midterm, I’ve just about run out of flash cards.

EN1600: Environmental Site Assessment I

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This course, oriented to the needs of the environment industry, introduces the student to the local, provincial and federal environmental legislation, regulations, guidelines and policies that apply to environmental site assessment. The site assessment process is introduced with emphasis on case studies involving a range of projects. It will focus on the CSA/CCME phased approach with projects including a Phase I assessment of a local facility.

The Phase I (survey for potential sources of environmental impact at a site) assessment component of this course was completed recently, and my group and I just presented our report. It’s good practice for a professional report, but not always realistic due to student limitations. The next exercise will involve Phase II (the confirmation of contaminants at a site), where we will do case studies of local mines and present them.

EN1540: Air Pollution

This course enables the student to make practical assessments of air pollution problems. Meteorology and its importance with respect to the formation, transportation, and dispersal of air pollutants are examined. Examination of the techniques and equipment necessary for the collection and analysis of airborne pollutants are discussed and reviewed.

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High-volume air sampler: samples the air for particulate matter using a filter disk.
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RCS Air Impactor – this device draws air into an agar strip for fungi sampling.

One of my favourite courses this semester – it involves meterology, the use of various devices to measure air quality and a snowshoeing hike around Tipping’s Pond to look at pollution-sensitive lichens.

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Old Man’s Beard, a lichen that fluorishes around Tipping’s Pond, and is used as a natural environmental quality indicator.

EN2220: Solid Waste Management

This course in the waste management field will introduce the issues of solid non-hazardous waste material. Students will be introduced to major topics including: sources, transportation, processing, and disposal of non-hazardous and hazardous waste material. The course will also introduce the student to the topic of solid waste disposal sites. Students will focus on the design, maintenance and operation of waste disposal sites. Hazardous wastes will include sewage sledges, drilling fluids, medical, industrial, and radioactive wastes.

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My lab group’s completed compost project.

In this course, we discuss a blend of old incineration technology and the latest methods of solid waste management – such as recycling and composting. We just began the management component of the course.

SU1550: Remote Sensing

This course is designed to introduce the basic principles and skills associated with remote sensing. Aerial photography interpretation and GPS technology are addressed through lectures and practical applications. Students are exposed to satellite imagery, processes and products.

In my last couple of columns, I’ve been using automated remote sensing with Google Earth to illustrate watershed drilling locations and potential fracking sites. In class, we’re learning the finer points of interpreting aerial images with the naked eye and use of software. Our midterm in this course is today, which I will get back to studying for when I submit this column.

PH1101: Physics II

This is a second semester course designed to extend the student’s knowledge and understanding of basic Physics principles, concepts and applications related to kinetic theory, heat, vibrations, sound and light. It also extends abilities in data handling, problem solving and experimentation.

Topics rotate in this course. If you’re battling with something, chances are you’ll pick up on something else. For instance, rotational kinematics sends my head in a spin, but I can keep afloat with fluid dynamics. Topics last semester were all linked, and if you didn’t understand something -say breaking vectors- it followed you right to the end, and caused an implosive chain reaction during the final exam.

Workterm!

I’m happy to announce that I have my workterm secured with a company in St. John’s. I’ll be temporarily moving there from May to August, and will likely be taking a break from CornerBrooker.com during that period.

CNA’s Environmental Technology program is nationally accredited by the Canadian Technology Accreditation Board (CTAB), and the Canadian Association for Cooperative Education (CAFCE).

Link to previous column in this series:  A Worthy Challenge: Environmental Technology Year II

LEAD PHOTO: Peering through the magnifier of a melting point apparatus to determine the melting point of a dried product at the conclusion of our most recent organic chemistry lab.