You have been assigned the position of environmental engineer for one of several local
plants whose water discharges flow into a lake in a flourishing tourist area. Although all
the plants are marginally profitable, they compete for the same customers. Included in
your responsibilities is the monitoring of water and air discharges at your plant and the
periodic preparation of reports to be submitted to the Department of Natural Resources.
You have just prepared a report that indicates that the level of pollution in the
plants water discharges slightly exceeds the legal limitations. Your supervisor, the
plant manager, says you should regard the excess as a mere "technicality," and
he asks you to "adjust" the data so that the plant appears to be in compliance.
He says that the slight excess is not going to endanger human or fish life any more than
if the plant were actually in compliance. However, he says, solving the problem would
require a very heavy investment in new equipment. He explains, "We cant afford
new equipment. It might even cost a few jobs. It will set us behind our competitors.
Besides the bad publicity wed get, it might scare off some of the tourist industry,
making it worse for everybody."
What are your basic responsibilities as an environmental engineer in this plant? How do
you think you should respond to your supervisors requests? What ethical questions
does this case raise?
Consider the same scenario as above, but from different perspectives. Look at the
situation from the standpoint of:
- the plant manager of the company
- the chief executive officer of the company
- environmental engineers from the competing companies
- plant managers from the competing companies
- the Department of Natural Resources
- local merchants
- parents of children who swim in the lake
- those who fish in the lake (or eat fish from it)
Do you ideas about how an environmental engineer ought to deal with a situation like
this change as you take into account these different perspectives? Now, looking at the
case from an "all things considered" perspective, go back to Part I and discuss
what you, as environmental engineer, should do (and why).