The University of Southampton

SOES3008 Environmental and Engineering Geology

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

1. To describe the geological problems associated with waste disposal and water supply. 2. To understand the Radon Problems particularly in a UK context. 3. To describe some of the principles of Environmental Law and its relationship to the planning process. 4. To describe the problems of contaminated land, legislation and methods of remediation. 5. To appreciate impacts of contaminated land in a metropolitan context using numerous case studies in Portsmouth 6. To understand the key principles of hydrology and hydrogeology and to use these to understand contaminant hydrology, transport and remediation. 7. To describe natural radioactivity and radioactive processes in an environmental context. 8. To examine the geological controls that produced the Oklo nuclear reactor and its implications for nuclear waste disposal. 9. To understand the environmental radioactivity legacy of the Sellafield site in Cumbria. Specifically, the hydrogeology of the Sellafield site and the consequences of a legacy of radioactive leaks and disposals and future remediation will be addressed. 10. To describe some of the problems associated with the recognition and consequences of the anthropogenic dispersal of radioactive material into the environment

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand the principles described above.
  • Understand how environmental geology impinges on everyday life.
  • Understand the complex issues associated with evaluating and remediating contaminated sites.
  • Understand the impact on human health of some key environmental pollutants of geological and anthropogenic origin (e.g. heavy metals from mine wastes, radon emanations, groundwater pollution, radionuclide pollution).
  • The link between geological phenomena and public health.
  • Strategies for working on multifactorial, multidisciplinary problems.
  • How a medium-sized environmental survey might be conducted.
  • Sampling natural environments.
  • How to present complex scientific information to the public.


The module is concerned with a number of inter-related environmental geological issues that have not been encountered in other courses. Relevant introductory material is presented to ensure that a good understanding of the key issues can be gained by students having a background in any of the environmental sciences (geology, geophysics, Phy Geog, Env Sci) Several of the course topics are inter-related which increases the value of the learning outcomes. Additionally, several aspects introduce information on employability prospects. The course covers problems of urban geology, including water supply and pollution (hydrology and hydrogeology) and waste disposal (landfill and geology, EU Directives). It also includes the impact of metalliferous mining on the environment, aspects of natural and anthropogenic environmental radioactivity, the many issues relating to problems relating to nuclear site operations, incidents, decommissioning, waste discharges to the sea and nuclear waste disposal. The hydrogeology of the highly complex Sellafield nuclear site is used as a case study to consider the interaction of groundwater movements with geochemical dispersion (including radionuclide migration).

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal Lectures: (24 x 45 minute Lectures): are concerned with theoretical background and case-studies relating to water resources, waste disposal, engineering, land remediation, radioactivity, environmental geochemistry and health. Approximately 4 Invited speakers make specialist contributions to the course. Practicals: 7 x 3 hour laboratory classes. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Practical classes and workshops20
Completion of assessment task70
Total study time150


Assessment Strategy

Theory Examination (60%): A 2½ hour written examination Answer 3 Qs out of 6, one from each of three sections. - any topic covered in the course can be expected Section 1: Environmental Geochemistry & Health, Contaminated Land Section Section 2: Hydrogeology, 3: Environmental Radioactivity Credit is given for wider reading and relevant information not given in the lectures. Tests Learning Outcomes 1, 2. Practicals/Assignment (40%): One piece of assessed work (worth 20%) and a mark for a compilation of all Laboratory Exercises (worth 20%). The Laboratory Book is a record of all Laboratory Exercises.


MethodPercentage contribution
Laboratory Assignment 40%
Theory examination  (2.5 hours) 60%
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