The term sanitary engineering is sometimes viewed as an obsolete term for environmental engineering. It is, however, more limited in its scope and is not concerned with environmental factors that do not have an immediate and clearly understood effect on public health. Areas outside the purview of sanitary engineering include traffic management, concerns about noise pollution or light pollution, aesthetic concerns such as landscaping, traffic management, and environmental conservation as it pertains to plants and animals.
Although sometimes considered synonymous with sanitary science, the phrase sanitary engineering refers specifically to an applied science in which engineering principles are utilized rather than just studied or improved.
Skills within this field are usually employed for the primary goal of disease prevention within human beings by assuring a supply of healthy drinking water, removing garbage from inhabited areas, and so on.
Compared to (for example) electrical engineering or mechanical engineering which are concerned primarily with closed systems, sanitary engineering is a very interdisciplinary field which may involve such elements as hydraulics, constructive modelling, information technology, project design, microbiology, pathology and the many divisions within environmental science and environmental technology. In some cases, considerations that fall within the field of social sciences must be factored in as well.
Although sanitary engineering may be most associated with the design of sewers, sewage treatment and waste water treatment facilities, recycling centers, public landfills and other things which are constructed, the term applies equally to (for example) a plan of action to reverse the affects of water pollution or soil contamination in a specific area.
While the phrase sanitary engineer properly refers to a highly-trained professional in the field of sanitary engineering, this same phrase is often used as a humorous euphemism for waste collector, a field of work that requires considerably less specialized education.
The term sanitary engineering appears in the names of many municipal departments throughout the English speaking world. The purview of these departments vary.
Others cover a broader scope of activities that might include the two just listed as well as such maintenance of the public water supply, collection of residential yard waste Program, disposal of hazardous waste, recycling strategies and even community programs where individuals or businesses "adopt" an area and either maintain it themselves or donate funds for doing so.
- The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05.
- Cuyahoga County Sanitary Engineering Division
- Delft University of Technology
- Greene County Sanitary Engineering Department