For four decades, Ronson cigarette lighters were produced in a factory on Manufacturers Place in the Ironbound section of Newark, resulting in contamination of soil and water by the industrial solvent Trichloroethylene (TCE).

In 1989, the factory closed, and a decade later houses were built on a site that environmental officials had restricted to nonresidential uses. Today, toxic TCE vapors are continuing to seep into the houses from the contaminated ground water and soil.

Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit will devote its Sunday offerings this Sunday and on February 25 and March 4 to help residents and the Ironbound Community Corporation get expert advice on the nature of the ongoing risks, how to protect families from resulting health problems and how the pollution can be remediated. Previous state environmental studies have not led to action, and residents hope to identify all potentially responsible parties.

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On February 25, Modesto Vieira, one of the residents, will share his experiences at both the 9:30 and 11:15 a.m. services. At 12:45 p.m., Vieira and Aaron Kleinbaum, executive director of the Eastern Environmental Law Center, will lead an information session on the situation. The proceeds of the offering will be donated to the law center to help the residents make their own assessment of the contamination and come up with recommendations for the clean-up.  

Beacon’s Social Justice Team selected the Manufacturers Place situation for this year’s environmental offering on the recommendation of its Green Earth Ministry.

“This is an issue of environmental justice so close to home,” said Margaret Babcock, Green Earth Ministry chair. “Manufacturers Place is about an insult to the Earth and a careless disregard for the well-being of our neighbors. We are eager to support the New Jersey-based organization working on the ground to help those residents.”

The law center is New Jersey’s only environmental public interest law center. It counsels and advocates on behalf of conservation, environmental and community organizations to address environmental justice, clean energy, sustainability and resiliency issues in New Jersey and throughout the region.    

Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit draws members from various religious and cultural backgrounds who join together in their individual quests for truth and meaning. Our mission is to be a radically inclusive religious community that feeds the human spirit and heals the world. We are a member congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.