U.S. EPA Contaminated Site Cleanup Information (CLU-IN)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. EPA Technology Innovation and Field Services Division

For more information on Optimization, please contact:

Kirby Biggs
Technology Integration and Information Branch

PH: 202-823-3081 | Email:


Conducting an Optimization Review

Project kickoffs are usually conducted by conference call.
The optimization review team reviews site documentation provided by site stakeholders and prepares for the site visit and interviews.
The site visit and interviews are intended for detailed information gathering.
The optimization review team develops findings and recommendations.
Reports can take many forms, ranging from a brief letter report to a comprehensive document.
A follow-up program facilitates communication between stakeholders and the optimization review team on recommendations implementation and results.

The diagram to the right illustrates a general process followed during the performance of an optimization review performed at the remedy stage of a cleanup. There are unique aspects to optimization reviews performed during different stages of the cleanup process.

Details about each of the general steps are provided below. Additional information on optimization reviews and the process followed is available within Remediation Optimization:  Definition, Scope and Approach.

Project Kick-off

The optimization review process is typically initiated with one or more project kick-off conference calls with the site stakeholders and optimization review team. The goal of project kick-off is to accomplish the following:

  • Introduce the various site stakeholders and optimization review team members that will be involved in the optimization review effort
  • Present a brief site background
  • Identify the end use objectives each site stakeholder has for the optimization review
  • Confirm or determine a scope of work (SOW) for the optimization review effort, including the duration of the site visit (if warranted), project and remedy aspects to be studied, documents and data sets to be reviewed, number and timing of interim conference calls, format for reporting optimization findings and recommendations, number of draft reports required and recipients and project schedule
  • Coordinate the transfer of documents and data sets to the optimization review team
  • Confirm site visit participants and site visit date(s)

Document Review and Preparation

Following the project kick-off, the optimization review team reviews site documentation provided by the site stakeholders. The documents are reviewed to gain background information on the site, review, modify or develop a working conceptual site model (CSM) and identify site-specific questions to ask during the site visit.

Learn more about key optimization components and documentation

Site Visit and Interviews

An optimization review site visit typically requires one work day, including a break for lunch. Site visit agendas can be modified to account for site-specific factors or weather conditions. Typically, the site visit starts with participant introductions and a brief review of the optimization review SOW and process outlined during project kick-off. The optimization review team emphasizes that the site visit is intended for information gathering and that questions or statements asked should not be interpreted as indications of the optimization review team�s final findings and recommendations. The technical discussion starts with a review of the CSM and progresses into more detailed questions and a site tour to see the primary site attributes and remedial systems of concern. During the site visit the optimization review team has an open discussion with the site stakeholders as a group, but it is common for some optimization review team members and site stakeholders to have separate conversations. The site visit concludes with a debrief during which the optimization SOW is revisited to see whether there are changes to the remedy aspects to be studied or additional documents or data that the optimization review team should review as part of the effort.

Data Analysis

After the site visit, the optimization review team performs detailed review of the documents, data sets and personnel interviews to develop findings and recommendations. The optimization review team evaluates technical and cost information and leverages their professional experience to develop findings and recommendations related to remedy protectiveness, effectiveness and cost. The type of data analysis varies by site but typically involves both conceptual and quantitative components. The quantitative analysis is relatively limited by the SOW for the specific optimization review. While the optimization review process is not a modeling study and typically does not include robust modeling, statistical data analyses and simplified modeling are sometimes performed to help the optimization review team better understand the data and CSM. However, more robust modeling might be suggested if the optimization review team believes it is warranted.

Reporting of Findings and Recommendations

Optimization review reports can take many forms, ranging from a brief letter report with bulleted lists of findings and recommendations, to comprehensive documents with detailed text and multiple appendices. The format of the report is determined during project kick-off and is based on the optimization objectives of the site stakeholders. Some stakeholders may require a concise, cost-effective delivery of findings and recommendations whereas other stakeholders might require a robust, comprehensive document with detailed analysis to help support a key site decision. Regardless of the report format, the optimization review process typically includes at least one draft report and one final report, with the final report based on one set of comprehensive comments from the site stakeholders. In some cases, however, it is beneficial to facilitate multiple rounds of comments and drafts or to allow key site stakeholders the opportunity to review a draft before distributing the report to others.

Most optimization reviews move directly from the data analysis phase to preparation of a draft report, but site or project needs might require the optimization review team to provide interim updates to the site stakeholders. These interim updates involve the optimization review team presenting preliminary findings and recommendations (typically by internet web conference) to the site stakeholders for feedback. This interim step allows the site stakeholders to provide additional input before a full report is completed. For example, the site stakeholders might confirm that the preliminary findings and recommendations are encouraging or that there is additional information that would be beneficial for the optimization review team to include in the review.

View site-specific optimization review reports


While the optimization review process during the remedy stage is generally a one-time event, there is typically a follow-up program to provide the site stakeholders and optimization review team another opportunity to communicate. The optimization review team typically asks which recommendations were either implemented, are still under consideration or will not be implemented; and the relative accuracy of the optimization review team cost estimates associated with each recommendation. During this discussion, site stakeholders can ask the optimization review team questions about recommendation implementation or interpretation of recommendation results. Follow-up is typically conducted on a six-month or annual basis for 1 to 3 years depending on how quickly the recommendations are considered.

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