The objectives of this study were to: (1) measure water column concentrations of Irgarol 1051 and its major metabolite GS26575 annually (2004-2006) during mid-June and mid-August at 14 sites in a study area comprised of three sub-regions chosen to reflect a gradient in Irgarol exposure (Port Annapolis marina, Severn River and Severn River reference area); (2) use a probabilistic approach to determine ecological risk of Irgarol and its major metabolite in the study area by comparing the distribution of exposure data with toxicity-effects endpoints; and (3) measure both functional and structural resident phytoplankton parameters concurrently with Irgarol and metabolite concentrations to assess relationships and determine ecological risk at six selected sites in the three study areas described above. The three-year summer mean Irgarol concentrations by site clearly showed a gradient in concentrations with greater values in Back Creek (400-500ng/L range), lower values in the Severn River sites near the confluence with Back Creek (generally values less than 100ng/L) and still lower values (<10ng/L) at the Severn River reference sites at the confluence with Chesapeake Bay. A similar spatial trend, but with much lower concentrations, was also reported for GS26575. The probability of exceeding the Irgarol plant 10th centile of 193ng/L and the microcosm NOEC (323ng/L) suggested high ecological risk from Irgarol exposure at Port Annapolis marina sites but much lower risk at the other sites. There were no statistically significant differences among the three site types (marina, river and reference) with all years combined or among years within a site type for the following functional and structural phytoplankton endpoints: algal biomass, gross photosynthesis, biomass normalized photosynthesis, chlorophyll a, chlorophyll a normalized photosynthesis and taxa richness. Therefore, based on the above results, Irgarol adverse effects predicted from the plant 10th centile and the microcosm NOEC in the high Irgarol exposure area (Back Creek/Port Annapolis marina) were not confirmed with the actual field data for the receptor species (phytoplankton). These results also highlight the importance of unconfined field studies with a chemical gradient in providing valuable information regarding the responses of resident phytoplankton to herbicides.