Federal authorities are beginning to tighten the noose around the counterfeit bolt trade. Federal prosecutors are finally taking our warnings seriously.

Last month U.S. attorneys in Orlando, Fla., persuaded a grand jury to hand up the first indictment in a case of alleged fraud by a steel bolt supplier, Edgewater Fastener Inc. And the Justice Department has joined a lawsuit filed by a bolt salesman against a former employer, Aircom Fasteners Inc. of Arlington, Tex., in which he charges that the company sold thousands of counterfeit bolts to the military.

For months we have been reporting the potential danger posed by counterfeit steel bolts that can't withstand the stress put on them by military hardware. The substandard bolts turn to putty at high temperatures, possibly putting American military personnel in fatal trouble.

This action by federal prosecutors comes none too soon for Pentagon investigators, who have been trying for the past year to nail so-called "schlock houses."

Several investigators have told our associate Stewart Harris they're worried about the magnitude of the counterfeit-bolt problem and its potential for catastrophe. At the Pentagon's "hardware store" in Philadelphia, the Defense Industrial Supply Command, one out of every three Grade 8 bolts is a fake. Grade 8 steel bolts are the workhorses of industrial fasteners.

Alerts on the danger of fake, substandard steel bolts led to an appalling discovery: Counterfeits were in the replacement stockpile for use on the catapult systems of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. The catapults that hurl planes off the Vinson every 45 seconds generate extremely high temperatures, which the counterfeit bolts can't handle.

Sources tell us that the Navy has issued warnings to its aircraft carriers about the deadly potential of the substandard bolts. We've also learned that counterfeits have been discovered in submarine tenders, which resupply the nuclear-armed subs that make up a vital part of U.S. deterrence against Soviet aggression.Clarification:

In our Sept. 22 column we cited eight federally funded construction projects as indicative of waste in Uncle Sam's housing programs. Actually, only one of the projects was specifically for housing: a $7.1 million luxury development in Atlantic City, N.J.

The other projects, which received a total of about $33 million in federal grants, were funded by an Urban Development Action Grant program of the Housing and Urban Development Department. The program was set up to encourage development in economically depressed areas by generating construction jobs and attracting businesses, according to a HUD spokesman.

This resulted in construction of a marina with "dockominiums" in Michigan; luxury hotels in Florida, Puerto Rico and New York; a parking deck in Columbus, Ind., and a $15 million site preparation for a Chrysler plant in Detroit.