Lebanon — Delivery trucks roll up to the dock at a former sock factory in Lebanon around the clock.They arrive from Brunswick, Maine; St. Albans, Vt.; Clinton, Mass.; and elsewhere to unload bundles of dirty bedsheets, towels, gowns and scrubs for washing at the Kleen Laundry plant along the Mascoma River. Here they will be washed, dried, packed and returned to hospitals within 24 hours.
On a frigid day last week, with icicles dangling like glistening swords from the edge of the plant’s roof, Kleen’s owners Dennis Kim and Ned Hazard dash in shirtsleeves across the alley from their offices into the warm, cavernous interior of the former Lebanon Woolen Mills building. Outside, parked near the former steam house, a tanker delivers the liquefied natural gas that fuels the plant’s boilers as condensation vapors swirl into the air.Inside, workers tear open boxes and snap-whip bedsheets to be loaded into bins to begin an eight-hour trip through the labyrinth of conveyor belts, slings, drums, tubes, rollers and carts that make up the 13-step sorting-to-checkout laundering process.Working an eight-hour shift requires both stamina — workers are on their feet nearly the entire time — and constant alertness. With the plant processing 62,000 pounds of laundry each day in 95-pound bundles, finishing one load of laundry simply means another is on its way.
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