CHEM104 Introduction to Environmental Chemistry

Department of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics: STEM Department Archive

I. Course Number and Title
CHEM104 Introduction to Environmental Chemistry Course No Longer Offered
II. Number of Credits
3 credits
III. Number of Instructional Minutes
IV. Prerequisites
CHEM101 (C or better)
V. Other Pertinent Information
Three-hour lecture, or/and laboratory, or field trip per week. Safety glasses or goggles required.
VI. Catalog Course Description
This course is an introductory study of environmental science from a chemistry perspective. Topics include environmental pollution of soil, water and air, and methods for abating this pollution. Students will travel locally to obtain and test samples and visit waste management and pollution measurement facilities.
VII. Required Course Content and Direction

This course provides an understanding of environmental composition and changes in the air, soil and water, with an emphasis on how contaminants enter the local environment. An explanation of the theory behind environmental pollution and environmental tests will be discussed. The inter-relatedness of environmental problems at local, regional, and global scales will be explored with emphasis on major issues, such as climate change and energy use.

The course will focus on the environment of Bucks County, PA. Techniques of air pollution sampling and measurement will be explored in the laboratory and/or with a relevant field trip. Surface waters in the area, such as the Neshaminy Creek or surrounding ponds or creeks will be sampled and analyzed for nitrate and other contaminants. Area soils will be sampled and analyzed.

The course is open to all students and is designed to attract those with an interest in the environment, and to those wishing to pursue a major in environmental science. This course will provide the student with an opportunity to begin to appreciate the complexity of environmental issues, and of the importance of careful measurement based on scientific principles to the understanding and management of these issues. A basic knowledge of Chemistry is required.

As one of the Natural Sciences, chemistry has evolved out of careful observation and experimentation; as technology evolves, so does the body of chemical knowledge. This course will integrate the technological advances in environmental chemistry and their impact in the formulation of chemical principles and their applications. Furthermore, the laboratory component of the course will help to illustrate and apply some of these technological advances.

  1. Course Learning Goals

    Students will:

    1. identify basic environmental contaminants and describe methods for their measurement;
    2. recognize the importance of environmental changes;
    3. criticize information on environmental studies from scientific magazines and newspaper articles;
    4. demonstrate an understanding of theoretical and practical environmental issues, and of the regulations that pertain to those issues; and
    5. recognize the importance of pertinent technological advances for the development of scientific knowledge and apply these advances in the laboratory when appropriate.
  2. Planned Sequence of Topics and/or Learning Activities

    Course Outline:

    1. Introduction. Discussion of students' goals and background knowledge. Nature of science, some important scientists and their contributions, use of mathematics and statistics, the experimental method, bias and objectivity. Brief overview of special environmental problems of our times and the importance of science; introduction to the laboratory.
    2. Fundamentals of measurement, significant figures, accuracy and precision, use of basic statistics. General principles of analytical chemistry, sampling issues, pre-treatment techniques, analytical methods.
    3. Environmental science and pollution; insights provided by chemistry. Key issues in environmental science from a global, regional, and local perspective.
    4. Solid waste management, recycling, toxicity, toxic and hazardous substances, hazardous waste management, products, product stewardship, life cycle analysis.
    5. Soils, nature and properties of, and pollution of; impacts of development. Storm-water, watersheds, land use.
    6. Water pollution: water supply: relationship to land use and other human activities. Important chemistry of waters, ecology of rivers and lakes, wastewater and sewage treatment; drinking water.
    7. Water and soil pollution and the atmosphere; acid rain: acidity, alkalinity and buffers; the multimedia nature of pollution; fate and transport of pollutants.
    8. Structure and behavior of the atmosphere; fate and transport of pollutants.
    9. Air pollution: criteria of air pollution, toxics, CFC's and the "ozone wars," greenhouse gases and climate change.
    10. Energy use and conservation, power production, fossil fuels, nuclear energy, renewable energy.
    11. Climate change, biogeochemical cycles. The Gaia hypothesis, loss of biodiversity. Progress and sustainability.
    12. Class presentations.
    13. Environmental science and public policy.

    Laboratory Experiments/Field Trips:
    While specific laboratory experiments and field trips vary depending on the instructor and the semester, the following list is representative of the experiments that are used:

    1. Lab: Safety regulations
    2. Lab: Measurement science
    3. Lab: Using spreadsheets to summarize, analyze, and present data
    4. Field trip: Landfill
    5. Lab: Nitrate in waters
    6. Lab/field trip: Stream chemistry
    7. Lab: Chemistry of acid rain; pH and buffers

    Learning Activities:
    Instruction aims to enable the student to:

    1. develop a sampling and analysis strategy for monitoring the condition of a water body;
    2. identify changes that are taking place in the atmosphere, such as an increase in the acidity of rain water using pH meters and water testing kits;
    3. demonstrate key aspects of the long term measurements of changes in concentrations of pollutants in air, water and soil;
    4. determine the nitrogen content of surface and well waters using water testing kits;
    5. predict concentrations of pollutants in environmental media based on physical and chemical parameters, including partition coefficients and half-lives;
    6. design a laboratory notebook and use it to record all the data collected; and
    7. demonstrate a general understanding of the theory behind environmental testing and of the testing equipment used.
  3. Assessment Methods for Course Learning Goals

    Course learning goals are continuously assessed by periodic written examinations, class exercises, laboratory preparation, laboratory results, laboratory reports, and assigned work.
  4. Reference, Resource, or Learning Materials to be used by Student:

    The students will use approved text, laboratory modules and handouts, laboratory and demonstration equipment, library, science learning center, computer programs. Please refer to the course syllabus for specific information.

Review/Approval Date - 6/04; Revised 6/08; New Core 8/2015