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Bizarre case of missing water treatment containers in Bloomington under investigation

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In a strange case out of Bloomington, more than 150 water treatment containers are missing and two people have lost their jobs.

"It is an unusual situation," Director of Utilities Vic Kelson said.

Unusual, indeed, as Bloomington officials wonder what happened to 166 large, metal-encased containers that hold a polymer used in the water treatment process.

The containers, which were empty and awaiting pick up by a recycling operator, appear to have gone missing over a period of years.

"For a quite long while there was a practice of employees being allowed to take them home," Kelson said.

He's unsure why that was allowed, and said an administrator did not sign off on it. Kelson just took over the department earlier this year.

A spokesperson said 18-year veteran mechanic at the water treatment plant, Barry Milbourn, admitted to taking the containers home and even selling them.

As a result, the city fired Milbourn. His supervisor, Tim Gholson, also resigned.

"It’s really disappointing. These were people who worked really hard and they’re good people. This was a bad situation," Kelson said.

A woman who answered the door at Milbourn's house said their attorney had advised him not to talk to the media.

Bloomington Police are investigating the whereabouts of all of the containers, and it's unknown how many Milbourn may have sold. In total, the 166 containers could be worth between $8,000 and $12,000 in salvage, city officials said.

Kelson said that he believed the metal could have been scrapped, and the containers themselves can be used to make pontoon boats.

As of Friday, charges had not been filed in the case.