The EPA also announced that it has begun cracking down on "people who have misused government funds," spokesman Byron Nelson III said. The agency has barred one contractor from participating in any EPA-funded programs until May 6, 1985, and has initiated debarment procedures against three others.

The actions are among the first under a new regulation, specifying that the EPA will bar companies or individuals convicted of illegal or unethical acts while working on a government project.

The EPA decided to debar Ashland-Warren Inc., of McMinnville, Tenn., after it was convicted of rigging a federal highway construction contract and was debarred by the Federal Highway Administration.

The EPA has initiated debarment proceedings against two North Carolina firms, the Dickerson Group Inc. and Crowder Construction Co. Inc., as well as Frank Carpenter, a former president of Dickerson, and Crowder's vice president, Otis Crowder.

The EPA said Carpenter pleaded guilty to entering a collusive bid on the McAlpine Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, an EPA-funded project of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department. The Dickerson Group was granted immunity from prosecution in return for testimony that led to the conviction of Crowder and his firm for entering a collusive bid on that project.