After months of battling with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection over numerous pollution violations, Erie Coke suddenly closed its gates Thursday morning.

Car after car of people expecting to go to work were turned away from Erie Coke with no warning.

Employees said they had no notice that the plant was going to be shutting down. Many of them are now frustrated and unsure of what's next for them.

One of those employees, who identified himself to Erie News Now using his nickname Richie, was part-time at the plant after working there for 24 years.

"They just cost us all a job," said Richie. “I wanted to keep going, working part-time"

The shutdown comes just six days before Christmas.

"[A] very bad present for everyone," said Richie.

Even the plant's neighbors, who have been hoping for action, are upset with the timing.

"I hate to see people lose their job, especially this time of year, but something has to be done," said Bob Szoszorek, who has lived in the neighborhood next to Erie Coke for more than 60 years.

Even though he has been an advocate for cracking down on the plant for its many pollution violations, he hoped for better for the employees.

"It sucks,” said Szoszorek. “It does. These people deserve better; they don't deserve to be locked out. They deserve to be compensated for their time - how much time they served. They deserve a better shot."

While some will now have to look for another job, older employees like Richie are going to call it quits and retire.

"Any idea what you'll do next?” Erie News Now asked.

“Like I said, I am retired, so I won't go looking for job,” said Richie.