An ecological risk assessment method was developed to evaluate the magnitude, duration, and episodic nature of chemical stressors on aquatic communities. The percent of an ecosystem's species at risk from a designated chemical exposure scenario is generated. In effects assessment, probabilistic extrapolation methods are used to generate estimated safe concentrations (ESCs) for an ecosystem using laboratory toxicity test results. Fate and transport modeling is employed to generate temporal stressor concentration profiles. In risk characterization, area under the curve integration is performed on predicted exposure concentration profiles to calculate a cumulative exposure concentration (CEC) for the exposure event. A correction is made to account for the allowable exposure duration to the stressor ESC. Finally, the CEC is applied to the extrapolation model (curve) of the stressor to predict percent species at risk to the episodic exposure. The method may be used for either prospective or retrospective risk assessments. The results of a retrospective risk assessment performed on the Leadenwah Creek, South Carolina, USA, estuarine community are presented as a case study. The creek experienced periodic episodes of pesticide-contaminated agricultural runoff from 1986 through 1989. Although limited biological data were available for method validation, the risk estimates compared well with the Leadenwah Creek in situ bioassay results.