Giving Compass' Take:

• Kristin Musulin writes about the extent to which we should worry over our water supply - and how much it could cost to clean.

• Are you prepared to change your mindset about the threshold for clean water? What other health implications might this debate carry with it? 

• Learn more about clean water solutions.

Drinking water has long been at the center of city health and environment debates as utilities and public works departments face pressure to keep the basic necessity safe for residents.

That pressure increased last week when the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report stating that approximately 110 million Americans are exposed to drinking water with levels of toxic fluorinated chemicals that have long been "dramatically underestimated. "The nonprofit’s findings, centered on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), drummed up headlines highlighting the threat of the "forever chemicals" in major cities.

While the report outlined various ways cities can address PFAS contamination, it raised many questions regarding the limits at which they should measure water contamination and the costs of cleaning up such chemicals. Is it possible for cities to purify drinking water to EWG’s standards? If so, how much money and planning will it take to get there?

"There’s mounting research that PFAS other than PFOA and PFOS share the same health harms and risks of toxicity, and there’s building evidence ... that the 1 ppt limit would be protective from cancer and other health harms," Sydney Evans, science analyst at EWG and co-author on the report, told Smart Cities Dive.

While governments and utilities lack clarity around the levels at which PFAS contamination may put the public at risk, there is widespread agreement that more testing and cleanup of the contamination must be done to keep city residents safe.

"The cost of implementing these technologies, they’re not necessarily cheap ... But what are the long-term costs for the health consequences?" said Evans. "What’s the cost of a case of cancer? What’s the cost to a child with low birth weights or weakened immunity who’s sick all the time?"

Read the full article about the debate over how to keep our water clean by Kristin Musulin at Smart Cities Dive.