Employee Spotlight: Eric Cowan – “Wait…What do you do?”

Employee Spotlight: Eric Cowan – “Wait…What do you do?”

One of the many benefits of working for a smaller company is that your job description can change daily. One problem that arises with this fact is that your job description can change daily! Trying to explain to friends and family outside of the industry what it is exactly that you do can be a challenge when no one day looks the same and your company is constantly pushing the boundaries of the environmental remediation sector.

Eric was hired by Vertex Environmental in April 2015 as a new grad looking to bolster his field experience in the environmental industry. Before being hired by Vertex, Eric received his Bachelor of Arts and Science degree from the University of Guelph and Graduate Certificate in Environmental Engineering Applications from Conestoga College. With limited field experience, Eric was chomping at the bit to launch himself into every aspect of field work available at Vertex. In his first year alone, Eric worked on dozens of projects involving in-situ chemical injection, treatment systems, ex-situ soil remediation, lab-scale treatment experiments, and even started operating Vertex’s High Resolution Site Characterization (HRSC) tools.  During this time Eric also travelled across Canada completing a variety of complex and rewarding projects, working with lots of great people, and making new friends along the way!

Trying to Escape the -40 degree C Weather with Some Visitors in Northern BC


Through the first few years at Vertex, Eric applied cutting-edge remediation technologies across every division of Vertex. For example, Eric injected Zero Valent Iron (ZVI) into the subsurface at former drycleaner and industrial Sites to treat chlorinated solvents, and injected petroleum hydrocarbon (PHC) degrading oxidants at gas station sites. Eric also spent lots of time on ex-situ remediation projects treating PHC impacts in soil via bioremediation techniques (i.e., bio piles). He also worked on treatment systems like Multi-Phase Extraction (MPE) and Soil Vapour Extraction (SVE) systems to physically extract contamination from the subsurface in multiple forms. Additionally, he completed HRSC surveys across the country to map subsurface contamination as part of Vertex’s Research & Characterization division. Eric had lots of great experiences in the field – and also overcame lots of challenges – including cold weather and tough drilling conditions.

“Wait, I thought this was supposed to be a job in a tropical location in January, not the Ottawa consulate of that country in January!”


Using his experience in the field, Eric has seamlessly transitioned into the role of Project Manager within Vertex’s Remediation Division. Eric spends most of his time designing and implementing in-situ and ex-situ remediation projects to treat a wide range of soil and groundwater contaminants. He helped to spearhead the development of Vertex’s bedrock injection capabilities which have overcome the past notion that bedrock contamination was near impossible to clean up. He now routinely designs and manages bedrock injection programs utilizing packers to isolate and target bedrock fracture zones with remedial amendment injections. Additionally, he focuses on the design and installation of Permeable Reactive Barriers (PRBs) for chlorinated solvents and petroleum hydrocarbons via both direct-placement and injection techniques. PRBs long have been a staple in the environmental remediation industry, but Eric works on progressing PRB technology through bench-scale PRB treatability testing, innovative installation techniques, and new QA/QC techniques to confirm PRB treatment effectiveness. Eric also spends time working on outreach and education programs, including presenting talks at environmental conferences and helping to organize and run the ever-popular Demo Corner at the SMART Remediation conference series.

Visit Eric at the Next SMART Remediation Event at the Demo Corner!

So – what does Eric say when someone asks what he does? He asks them how much time they have!

Eric is closing in on nine years at Vertex! He still enjoys the variety that comes with his work and never has a dull day. While he now mainly focuses his efforts as a Project Manager in the Remediation Division, he never shies away from exploring new opportunities, researching emerging technologies and contaminants, or using his multidisciplinary background to help understand complex environmental problems.

You can contact Eric at ericc@vertexenvironmental.ca