I'm getting two conflicting reports and was wondering if anyone can help me. I was told that on the distribution panel, grounded conductors (neutral) and ground wires need to be separated in the distribution panel. The point of disconnect is at the meter and the neutral and ground wires, apparently, have to be separated downstream of the point of disconnect for proper grounding system. Is this true? I got a second opinion and was told that on a 3 wire service to panel, neutral and ground wires are allowed to be terminated on the same bar. Any help would be really appreciated. Thank you all!!
Whoever told you the meter was the point of disconnect was dead wrong. The main panel or disconnect is the first means of overcurrent or disconnect. THIS is where your neutral bond must happen.
The grounded (neutral) conductor is bonded to ground in one location.
It's common to bond the grounded (neutral) bus and the grounding bus in the panel, but it's not a requirement. The grounded (neutral) conductor can be bonded before the panel, but you'd then be required to keep the grounding and grounded (neutral) conductors separate after that point. So if you bond the grounded (neutral) conductor before the panel, you'll have to pull a separate grounding conductor along with the grounded (neutral) and two ungrounded (hot) conductors.
In most cases the main breaker in the panel is used as the main disconnect, which is why the grounded (neutral) conductor is typically bonded there. If, however, there is a disconnect before the panel. It's likely that, that will be the location where the grounded (neutral) conductor will be bonded. If this is the case, the grounded (neutral) and grounding conductors must be kept separate after this point in the system.
So if the grounded (neutral) conductor is bonded before the panel, you'll have to have 4 conductors from the point of bonding to the panel.