“The school has given us a dedicated lab just to Environmental Technology so that we have a space to do all of our testing for our field sampling and just for our classes so that we can build our own space and have a great facility in which to do that,” Herrin said. “... In Environmental Technology we focus on water quality because people have to have clean water to live.
“We can’t make more water, it’s a limited resource, so we have to keep it clean and know how to clean it up when it’s being put out either from factories or stormwater runoff and things like that and managing our wetlands ...”
She continued, “In this program we teach them where it comes from, how it gets treated for our drinking water, how it gets managed through the system and how to treat it as wastewater so that the product that is put out as wastewater is a very quality product and is not polluting.”
Some of the topics in the field of study also include environmental impact assessment, chemical fate and transport, air quality and environmental health.
Teaching students how water gets from point A to point B and how to measure its quality levels requires a bit more than flipping through a textbook and listening to lectures, Herrin said.
“We’ll go out to Lake Allatoona and various local streams and rivers and test [the water] there. We’ll test our drinking water here and it turns out good,” Herrin said. “You would be surprised at the high quality of drinking water that is available to those of us here in the metro area.”
She said opportunities are growing in the field, giving students employment options throughout a region rich in lakes, streams and rivers.
“[Students] can have a career as a lab analyst testing water in either the public sector or private sector, a drinking water operator, a wastewater operator, a site technician analyst ... working for a consulting company doing wetland assessments and site assessments,” Herrin said. “It’s one of the fastest-growing segments in our economy as far as growth projection for jobs.
“Georgia Power has put in a new water quality testing [center] at Plant Bowen, so we hope to tie some of our people in with them.”
According to www.bls.gov, the projected growth rate for careers in environmental technology is at 20 to 28 percent. Median incomes in 2010 began at $35,000.
“I picked plant science and environment [studies] because I knew people always needed clean water and something to eat and a place to do all that,” Herrin said. “It’s not that we should treat [the environment] like people aren’t here — some people think environmentalists want to make it so it’s like people aren’t here — but it’s not that. It’s that you have to take care of what you have so that we will always have something to be able to take care of ourselves.”