Former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Anne M. Burford and her husband Robert F. Burford, a high-ranking Reagan appointee in the Interior Department, were arrested on drinking-related charges after a highway incident late Friday night, according to Arlington County law enforcement authorities.

Anne Burford was arrested on a charge of being drunk in public at the Arlington County Detention Center by Arlington police at 12:52 a.m. Saturday, according to jail officials. Her arrest occurred two hours after her husband, director of the Bureau of Land Management, was arrested by Virginia State Police on two charges: driving while intoxicated and refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test.

Anne Burford was in the car with her husband at the time of his arrest, said C.W. Grant, a spokesman for the state police.

Reached at home by telephone yesterday, Anne Burford would not comment on the incident. She also said her husband would have no comment.

According to Arlington County Sheriff James A. Gondles, who said he has received written accounts of the incident from jail employes who were at the scene, Anne Burford was arrested after behaving in a disruptive manner in the lobby of the jail where her husband was being held.

Gondles said Burford was ringing a button that buzzes deputies inside the jail, and over the lobby intercom was loudly insisting that she be allowed in to see her husband, even though a deputy repeatedly told her that she would not be allowed entrance.

"She kept saying: 'I'm a lawyer and I know my rights and I know my husband's rights,' " Gondles said.

Arlington police officers stationed in the lobby eventually grew tired of Burford's behavior, Gondles said, and had her arrested.

After reading reports of the incident, Gondles said, "I would describe her behavior as abusive . . . . Drunk-in-public charges are not very common anymore. You almost have to ask to be arrested."

Gondles said that Anne Burford was cooperative while being booked shortly after 1 a.m., but around 3 a.m. she "became a problem" while in her cell.

According to Gondles, Burford repeatedly banged her shoe on the window of the cell, causing a deputy to investigate. "The deputy encountered a fight and she was scratched up by Burford ," Gondles said.

Anne Burford remained in jail from 1:10 a.m. until her release at 5:22 a.m., and her husband was released at 5:45, Gondles said. Each was freed on personal recognizance.

According to Grant, who said he received accounts of the highway incident from arresting Trooper J.H. Hampton, Hampton was attending to a disabled vehicle on I-395 north of Glebe Road and noticed a car stopped in the middle lane across the median on the other side. Hampton then drove to the other side of the highway, Grant said, and by the time he arrived there the Burfords' car had moved to the side of the road.

As Hampton approached on foot, the car started to move, but stopped after he rapped on the side. Grant said Hampton told him that Robert Burford mentioned several times during the arrest that he was a Reagan appointee.

A White House spokesman yesterday declined to comment.

The charges against both Burfords are misdemeanors.

Robert Burford has been ordered to appear in Arlington County's General District Court at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow. The maximum penalty for a first-time DWI conviction is six months in jail and a $500 fine.

Anne Burford has a choice of paying a $30 fine or appearing in court on Oct. 4.

The Burfords' appointments were controversial. Anne Burford resigned from the EPA in 1983 after critics charged that she was lax in enforcing environmental laws.

The Burfords, who live on Maple Hill Place in Alexandria, were married in February 1983.