For the first time in its history, the Environmental Protection Agency has sent a polluter to jail.

William Bushey, half-owner and vice president of the Corning Fibers Inc. paper company in Wells River, Vt., was fined $2,500 in federal court and ordered to serve 90 days in jail on a one-year sentence for refusing to comply with EPA rules on the sludge he was putting into the Wells River. He pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, willful contempt of court and violation of the Clean Water Act.

Another officer got one year's probation and the company was fined $50,000.

An EPA spokesman said it was the first use of the criminal contempt provision under EPA law and the first time any convicted polluter has gone to jail. The rest have been fined for violations, though state courts have sent other polluters to prison.

The agency sued Bushey in 1977 to get him to stop polluting the water, and entered into a court-approved consent agreement under which he promised to install control equipment.

But he never put it in, and also refused to submit an application for a water pollution discharge permit, the EPA spokesman said.

Even worse, the spokesman continued, the company tampered with monitoring devices to distort the data they had to send to EPA, and unplugged some old drainpipes to get rid of their waste where no one could see it.