Emma protects our health and the environment by monitoring levels of environmental pollutants in the land, air and water. She sets the conditions on industrial processes to minimise their release of pollutants

Mae’r proffil hon ar gael yn Gymraeg

Dilynwch i gael y fersiwn Gymraeg

Hi, I’m Emma and I work as a pollution control officer for Swansea Council in South Wales.

Emma is standing in an outdoor office with equipment inside.

Source: © Emma Smith

What does a pollution control officer do?

A pollution control officer carries out many functions in order to safeguard the health of the public and to protect our air, land and water and we are responsible for legislative advice and enforcement. For example, it is a legal requirement for local authorities to analyse the air around us. Air pollution results from the introduction of a range of substances into the atmosphere from a wide variety of sources. It can affect human health and also the environment. Pollution control officers in Swansea ensure that the air quality monitoring equipment is maintained and operational. We sample and measure the air for a range of pollutants and, by monitoring these pollutants, we can make changes that will improve air quality. 

How does your work affect the world around us?

I make sure that land is suitable for use. This ensures that there are no substances or chemicals in the ground that have the potential to cause harm. This is carried out by technically reviewing reports to determine the risks to human health and the environment.

Industrial processes have the potential to release pollution and cause damage to the environment and human health. Many will need legal permits which put conditions on the operator to minimise the release of pollutants. It is my job to prepare and issue these permits and to ensure that the permits are complied with.

Salary range and qualifications required 

  • Salary range: £25,000 to £29,000.
  • Minimum qualifications: A degree in a science-based discipline is preferred.

Emma is at a plant wearing a fluorescent orange piece of outer clothing.

Source: © Emma Smith

What is your typical day like?

My typical day is busy and varied. I could be reviewing contaminated land reports. I could also be carrying out an inspection at an industrial process or I could be calibrating one of our air quality monitoring stations. I could be investigating pollution complaints made by the public, plus much more!

Why did you choose chemistry? What keeps you motivated?

I enjoyed learning about chemistry in school. I started work at 18 in a material testing laboratory where I was given the opportunity to study day-release for an HNC in chemistry. The natural progression from there was to study chemistry full time. I studied at Sheffield University and, during my studies, Helen Sharman (a chemistry graduate from the university) was the first British astronaut to enter space. It was a great time to be in the department. Being able to help protect human health and the environment keeps me motivated.

What do you love about your job?

I love being able to help protect human health and the environment. I am constantly learning. No two days are ever the same and I enjoy the balance between a desk-based job and also being able to be out and about. I plan my day and I enjoy meeting people.

What skills do you need for your job?

Team working, problem solving, data handling, communication and technical skills are important. A pollution control officer needs to continuously train and develop to keep up with a rapidly changing regulatory framework in the environmental field. You will need to enjoy being busy and working with people from all walks of life. Reading and writing are essential and also being able to drive, as much of the work is not office based.

How did you find your job?

I found my job through the job centre.

What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in your field?

If someone is interested in a role as a pollution control officer, I would advise them to contact their local environmental health department at their local council.

Want to know more?

Emma Smith MRSC, pollution control officer for Swansea Council.

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Published September 2022