Celebrating 20 Years in Business. An origin story.

Celebrating 20 Years in Business. An origin story.

By Bruce Tunnicliffe

It was Friday July 11, 2003, my last day at the consulting firm where I started my environmental career. Over lunch, I remember walking to a government office in downtown Kitchener, Ontario, nervously lining up, and handing in paperwork to initiate a new corporation. And just like that Vertex Environmental Inc. was born



When you’re young and naïve, its easy to see what is possible, its easy to think big, its easy to think dreams can come true. And…sometimes they do! Thinking back over 20 years, I can’t be happier for the dream that started on that day twenty years ago.

A normal person might ask, why start an environmental contracting company, especially one with a focus in a brand-new area of our industry? At that time, in-situ remediation, surfactant-enhanced remediation, and acronyms like ISCO, ISCR and DNAPL were not yet fully formed in our collective lexicon. And yet Vertex was founded based upon these concepts. Why?

In the 1990s I developed a curiosity and love of technology and remediation approaches, and I needed to scratch that itch. During grad work at the University of Waterloo, I experimented with in-situ chemical oxidation (ISCO) using permanganate, and I watched how this purple liquid remediated dense non-aqueous phase liquid (DNAPL), specifically tetrachloroethene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE). It was almost like magic!


Bruce with permanganate in 1997


Bruce still with permanganate in 2018


And, as luck would have it, permanganate and ISCO came into fashion to treat subsurface contamination in North America in the early 2000s. Thus, on July 11, 2003, with a head full of possibilities, an eager young engineer decided to jump into in-situ remediation in the Canadian market and hasn’t looked back.



There were many things a young engineer doesn’t know, for example, how to select a corporate symbol, how to select a corporate colour. With this in mind, you may wonder why select purple for a corporate colour? Because it’s the colour of permanganate of course!

Since 2003, the people in and around Vertex have expanded this interest and enjoyment in technology and remediation. We’ve seen a lot of change, but some things have stayed the same, including our curiosity, excitement and deep interest in our environmental industry, and in how things work, how to make them better, and in the end how to make our world a little cleaner and a little better day by day.

I’d like to thank everyone and every firm who helped along the way. You’ve all been influential and guided or shaped our journey. It’s been a great ride, I wouldn’t change it for the world, and I hope we can keep up the momentum for another 20 years!


All the best,

Bruce Tunnicliffe


Vertex Timeline

Summary of major milestones and innovations that Vertex has been involved with over the years:

  • 2003: In-situ Remediation. With the creation of Vertex, consultants and landowners had a go-to firm for a variety of in-situ methods, from injection into wells, injection through drilled temporary injection points, and soil mixing. The starting two oxidants we commonly used were permanganate and modified Fenton’s Reagent (hydrogen peroxide).
  • 2005: The Oxidant Percarbonate. Staring with an introduction from a supplier, Vertex began using a “new” oxidant called percarbonate (RegenOx) in Canada to treat heating oil and other petroleum contaminants. This was an exciting development as percarbonate was much less aggressive than hydrogen peroxide and while permanganate was excellent, it did not treat petroleum hydrocarbons.
  • 2008: The Oxidant Persulphate. Staring with another introduction from a supplier, Vertex excitedly jumped into the use of the oxidant persulphate and its various activation methods. Persulphate was one of the first oxidants that could be used to target both chlorinated and non-chlorinated contaminants in the subsurface.
  • 2010: High Resolution Site Characterization. HRSC tooling and associated 3D modeling for in-situ contaminant detection, delineation and site characterization was brought into Canada in 2010 for the first time on a permanent basis by Vertex. We were thrilled to find out where contamination was specifically located, so that we could better understand it and then treat it.
  • 2011: SMART Remediation. Initiation of the SMART Remediation series of technical conferences of which there have been over 40 in-person and virtual events held across Canada to date. Knowledge is shared and professionals meet each other to network. We’ve had fun at it, and I hope you have too! Our demo corner is the latest popular addition to SMART Remediation.
  • 2015: Activated Carbon-Based Amendments. The first of the new generation of activated carbon-based injectable remedial amendments, namely Trap & Treat® BOS 100® and BOS 200®, were brought into Canada by Vertex. The in-situ market has drastically evolved since 2003 and using activated carbon in-situ one of the latest developments.
  • 2018: Treatment System Rentals. Vertex’s Systems division has always been busy with groundwater and soil vapour treatment, but in 2018 we took the jump into equipment rentals when we purchased frac tanks, filter skids and media vessels.
  • 2019: Soil Vapour Barrier Installer. Vertex became authorized as an applicator of the Geo-Seal® brand of multi-layer soil vapour intrusion barriers and commences the service of installing sub-slab vapour barriers for new constructions and retrofits at contaminated sites.
  • 2019: Physical Expansion. The Vertex office, shop and storage operations outgrew their former multiple premises and collectively moved into one larger and completely renovated property located at 40 McBrine Dr. in Kitchener, Ontario.
  • 2020: Flexible Ex-Situ Permit. Vertex acquired two new flexible regulatory permits (for Ontario) to allow a wide range of ex-situ remediation activities to be completed on soils at contaminated sites in preparation for a new Regulation being implemented in Ontario on the management of excess soils.
  • 2020: In-House Testing Laboratory. A Ph.D. chemist was hired to manage Vertex’s long-existing, in-house bench-scale testing and R&D laboratory on a full-time basis, with increased capacity for a broader range of testing services.
  • 2020: Bedrock Injection Capability. Expansion of Vertex’s capabilities to allow the completion of remedial amendment injections into bedrock at contaminated sites for both plume remediation as wells as PRB installation.
  • 2021: Construction Dewatering. Expansion into the construction dewatering services via a strategic personnel hire and acquisition of specialized dewatering system equipment to complement Vertex’s expanding water treatment services.
  • 2021: Permeable Reactive Barriers. We have used zero valent iron (ZVI) for years and found ways to inject it or to place it into the ground, but this year was the first year that we installed ten (10) PRBs in a single year! A record. The amount of PRBs we install annually increases year over year, due to the increasing need for Risk Management Measures. We’ve become the PRB specialists!
  • 2021: Proprietary QA/QC Testing Procedures. Vertex developed proprietary, semi-quantitative QA/QC testing procedures to more accurately determine the concentrations of remedial amendments in soil/sand mixtures. These procedures cover zero-valent iron, activated carbon-based and modified clay-based amendments and are used to confirm that remedial amendments are present at the loading rates specified in the remedial design providing greater remediation certainty.
  • 2022: Expanded Activated Carbon-Based Amendments. The latest formulations of activated carbon-based injectable remedial amendments, namely Trap & Treat® CAT 100® and BOS 200+®, were brought into Canada for the first time with Vertex as the exclusive distributor and approved applicator for all of Canada.
  • 2023: PFAS Treatment Accreditation. Vertex entered into an agreement with CETCO as the exclusive approved injection applicator for all of Canada for Fluoro-Sorb® Adsorbent to remediate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which represent one of the most significant groups of emerging contaminants in Canada at this time.

A lot has changed since 2003. Looking back its hard to see the change day to day, but when viewed on a yearly time scale, its significant. Over the past twenty years the environmental sector has seen continuous change in science, technology, regulation and public awareness and perception. There has been no time to stand still. Continuous research, learning and innovation are required to meet the ever-increasing demands and opportunities of environmental remediation in Canada and we feel that Vertex has been on the forefront of that innovation since day one.

We are interested and excited to see what comes next! There is no doubt we are living in interesting times and rather than standing still, we’re picking up momentum. Thanks to all who helped us get this far. It’s been amazing and we feel the best is yet to come!